Nel's New Day

November 14, 2016

Don’t Normalize Trump; He Really Is That Bad

“Oh, he really isn’t that bad.” That cry started after Donald Trump’s election for the White House with the hope that people would believe that he’s really a decent person despite his virulently racist, misogynist, bullying, pro-violent statements. Now Trump supporters are moving on to defend Steve Bannon, as Trump moves the right-wing fringe from the past into the mainstream of the executive branch, further normalizing racism and anti-Semitism. Most Republican politicians have avoided mentioning Bannon’s annointing, but Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) praised Trump’s choice. (Chris Matthews did say that Steve Bannon makes Rudy Giuliani look good.)

steve-bannonBannon called his outlet “the platform of the alt-right,” an online-based white nationalist movement with the goal of an all-white United States.  For example, his Breitbart.com published an article entitled “Hoist it high and proud: The Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage” after a white supremacist killed nine blacks at the historic Charleston (SC) black church. Another article called Bill Kristol, conservative columnist who opposed Trump, a “renegade Jew.” Other notable Bannon headlines include “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture.”

“The racist, fascist extreme right is represented footsteps from the Oval Office,” John Weaver, advisor of Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign, tweeted in response to the news. “Be very vigilant America.” Bannon is a good match for Trump in his treatment of women. After his former wife was beaten, Bannon was arrested and charged with domestic violence. Prosecutors had to drop the charges after she didn’t show up in court, possibly because Bannon threatened her and the children if she spoke against him. A court case also accused Bannon and his colleague of sexual harassment. More about Bannon here.

It’s been said that “personnel is policy,” and Bannon is a chief example of this as he has been named “equal” to former RNC director Reince Priebus, now Trump’s chief of staff. In fact, Bannon probably has more influence that Priebus, who is lucky to get the new job because the GOP had considered firing him from the national committee. Like Bannon and Trump, Priebus has no elected experience; Bannon’s only government experience is attacking it.

trump-obama

Trump will need to hire far more than these two people in his transition to the White House. Until talking with President Obama this week, Trump had no idea that he was responsible for hiring the 4,100 staffers in the West Wing. Over 1,000 of those new employees must be confirmed by the Senate and should be vetted for security clearances within two months. The 100 top officials—cabinet plus defense, homeland security, disaster and pandemic response officials—must be ready to start work on January 20 to keep the country safe. Desperate to keep some of the current staff members, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, asked them if they were willing to stay with the new administration. They weren’t. The State Department, preparing to turn everything over to Trump, have contacted him about the transition, but he hasn’t answered.

Conservative columnist Ross Douthat thinks that people have “a moral responsibility to serve”:

“For the next four years, the most important check on what we’ve seen of Trump’s worst impulses—his hair-trigger temper, his rampant insecurity, his personal cruelty—won’t come from Congress or the courts or the opposition party. It will come from the people charged with executing the basic responsibilities of government within his administration.

“This is particularly true in foreign policy, where presidential power has its fewest limits — where the chief executive can start wars with near-impunity, deal out death from the skies, rattle the global economy with an executive order, and decide with barely anyone else’s input to launch a nuclear weapon. In foreign policy, too, the choices that presidential appointees have to make on their own, in diplomatic and military contexts, can have life-or-death consequences very quickly. So to the extent that Trump’s approach to governance threatens world peace, that threat can be mitigated by appointees with experience and knowledge, and magnified if their posts are filled by hacks and sycophants instead.”

This Republican who writes that people should suffer abuse from Trump to keep him from making stupid mistakes, ignores the fact that Trump will not pay any attention to what public servants think is right.

Trump is also unaware of how time-consuming being a president will be. He indicated that he might spend most of the week in Washington—like members of Congress—but go to Trump Tower in Newport, his golf course in Bedminster (NJ), and his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate for part of every weeks.

The president-elect most likely ran as revenge against President Obama’s ridicule at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. One week ago, he didn’t think that he would win. The past five days have introduced him to the responsibilities of the president of the most powerful country in the world, and he won’t like those responsibilities. His choice is to do the job poorly, assign the jobs to white supremacists, or resign. The last choice would leave the United States in the hands of a quiet megalomaniac who wants to make the country a white theocracy.

Trump won’t resign as long as he’s making money for the Trump Organization. Conflict-of-interest laws for the executive branch mandate that all of them divest themselves of investments affected by their decisions in public office—except for the president and vice-president. Trump has refused to release his tax returns, and he’ll refuse to divulge his involvement in his business. His claim is that it will be a “blind trust” run by his children. A true blind trust is one in which assets are controlled by independent parties who have no communication with the owner. Trump also wants security clearance for Donald, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka, and he appointed all three of the younger Trumps to the transition team that picks key administrative officials. Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer, claims that the president-elect has no interest in growing his fortune as president, and Trump promises not to use his presidency to enrich his business, but experience shows that his word is worthless.

Already Trump has lied about his personal involvement with Russia, and his past history shows how involvements with foreign countries have financially benefitted him. Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, for instance, salvaged Trump during his corporate bankruptcies in the 1990s, even buying Trump’s yacht and bad hotel debt. Trump’s judicial appointments can also be connected to his business activities. His sole proprietor LLCs already cover the country as well as Panama, Cozumel, and Dubai, and the Trump University lawsuit is scheduled for later this month.

Trump’s appointment of the new IRS commissioner will solve his tax audit problems, and his control of the Attorney General will also protect him. The appointment of the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission will protect his financial interests. Trump donated at least $35,000 to Alan Hevesi for his 2002 election as New York state comptroller, the same time as his successful $500 million lawsuit to reduce his property taxes. Of the 9,000 positions in the federal government, only 1,000 must be confirmed by the Senate. Trump can control gaming, environmental building codes, housing and urban development, etc.

If we’re lucky, Trump will spend his presidency making himself rich and not destroying the lives of most people in the U.S. And luckier yet, maybe the people who voted for him will get the message that change is not always positive. (Just trying to be positive while we work to keep the battleship from turning in the wrong direction.)

August 19, 2013

GOP Alienates Everyone except White Males

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/08/16/20053005-rnc-unanimously-approves-2016-debate-resolution?lite  Transparency is not the Republican National Committee’s strong suit, so it’s no surprise that much of last weekend’s Summer Meeting in Boston was closed to the public and press. Yet a few things slipped out, especially when Chair Reince Priebus wanted the publicity.

The main buzz was the unanimous approval of a resolution barring NBC News and CNN from hosting the 2016 GOP presidential primary debates after the news that the two networks may air Hillary Clinton documentaries. Fox isn’t included in the boycott because it reportedly bailed on participating in the production of these films. The resolution states that the RNC would not “partner with (CNN or NBC) in the 2016 presidential primary debates nor sanction any primary debates they sponsor.” The ban extends to NBC and CNN’s Spanish-language channels, Telmundo and CNN Espanol.

Another report indicates that the RNC will force networks to reject journalists for debate moderators and replace them with right-wing media personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Such a decision would be in direct conflict with the RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” report issued last March: “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

The RNC tried unsuccessfully to conceal its racist approach toward immigration reform from the most conservative members by highlighting charter members of the new GOP “Rising Stars” program—two women, a Latina state lawmaker, and an African-American state lawmaker. Priebus also said, “Using the word ‘self-deportation’–it’s a horrific comment to make. I don’t think it has anything to do with our party. When someone makes those comments, obviously, it’s racist.”

The GOP platform, however, advocates the policy in its opposition to “any forms of amnesty” for “illegal immigrants,” instead endorsing “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.”

A top speaker—behind closed doors—was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who supposedly urged GOP members to work toward winning elections rather than squabbling over ideology. “We are not a debating society,” Christie told the RNC luncheon. “We are a political operation that needs to win.” He has claimed that it’s too early to start running for the presidential election of 2016 while he positions himself for candidacy.

The squabble continued when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), another presidential wannabe, responded through advisor Doug Stafford who said: “So if I translate Gov. Christie correctly, we shouldn’t be the party of ideas. We shouldn’t care what we stand for or even if we stand for anything. We reject that idea. Content-free so-called ‘pragmatism’ is the problem, not the solution.”

When Priebus announced the RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” report, he called it a “wake-up call” to court minorities and women. After the RNC meeting, a Politico op-ed piece listed the groups that the GOP has insisted on alienating since the last election and release of the report on how to not alienate these groups: Hispanics, through the House approach toward immigration reform; African-Americans, by responding offensively toward George Zimmerman’s exoneration for killing teenage Trayvon Martin; gays, with its opposition to rights for LGBT people in marriage and employment; and swing voters, by the GOP demonstrating that they are totally incapable of governing most recently with its threat of shutting down the country if they don’t get their own way.

The GOP shows that minorities don’t belong in the GOP “tent”:

  • Voted to deport DREAMers, a bill that would resume deportations for children brought to the United States without the knowledge that it was done illegally.
  • Suppressed minority votes by enacting laws deliberately designed to stop poor people and minorities from their constitutional right to vote.
  • Used dismissive and racist language including the statement from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) if people don’t want to be part of “the American race” that they should leave the country.
  • Reacted with insensitivity regarding the Martin killing with such comments as “get over it” [Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)], blame on President Obama for Zimmerman even standing trial [Rep. Steve King (R-IA)], and refusal to believe that “there is any particular evidence” of black voters being prevented from voting [Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)].
  • Tried to prove opposition of immigration reform using Jason Richwine’s report for Heritage Foundation that he based on his racist Ph.D. dissertation linking race and IQ.

The rabidly anti-LGBT agenda including spending millions of dollars to keep same-sex married couples from receiving federal benefits, preventing anti-discrimination laws in housing and jobs, working to reinstate anti-sodomy laws for only LGBT people, and trying to roll back the repeal of the military policy, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” that permitted service members to openly serve for almost two years.

Politico omitted a large constituency that the GOP continues to alienate—women. The GOP:

  • Fought insuring voters in 40 House votes to stop Obamacare and state laws to refuse federal Medicaid funding, action which inordinately affects women.
  • Opposed the Violence against Women Act, legislation that was first signed into law in 1994 and then twice reauthorized twice that faced great GOP resistance this past spring because it was “expanded to include other different groups,” according to Rep. Martha Blackburn (R-TN). “Different groups” were LGBT, Native American, and immigrant.
  • Defunded Planned Parenthood through federal bills and state laws, causing women to lose access to contraception, cancer screenings, and basic preventive care.
  • Passed anti-abortion legislation through hundreds of outrageous, unconstitutional laws that stop women from having any abortions, no matter what the reason. The House passed Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-AZ) abortion ban after 20 weeks, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced similar legislation.
  • Insulted women legislators, for example when Texas Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Greg Abbott (R) thanked a supporter on Twitter after he referred to state Sen. Wendy Davis as “Retard Barbie.”
  • Refused to recognize serious issues of sexual assault in the military through such offensive blame on pornography [Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)] and “the hormone level created by nature” [Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)].
  • Opposed free contraception through federal attempts to allow anyone to circumvent Obamacare on any flimsy “religious” reason.
  • Attacked working mothers by stating that the American education system  is “so mediocre” because of women who work outside the home [Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS)].
  • Cut support for women and children in federal budget by eliminating foodstamps and a $758 million cut in WIC, a federal assistance program for low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five.
  • Fought equal pay for women in both states repealing equal pay and the House which rejected the Fair Pay Act.

 

After eliminating minority, female, and LGBT voters, the GOP is left with white men. At the rate that younger people are turning progressive, it’s actually left with older white men—and not all of those are conservative. By 2025, just 12 years from now, the largest age group in America will be those under 40 years of age. An interactive chart on this website shows the changes over the decades.

August 12, 2013

GOP Uses Subversion, Blackmail to Win

The dog days of August are here, and Congress has gone to their town hall meetings. But before they left Washington, they laid some plans. The House Republican Conference put together a planning kit, “Fighting Washington for All Americans,” to help survive those awkward meetings with the constituents. The focus is a “fierce hatred of all things Washington.”

The planners must have forgotten that the House has a GOP majority led by GOP Speaker John Boehner and GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Even Boehner missed the irony when he insisted that voters “don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington.”

Following are a few brilliant NRC ideas:

  • Create and share six-second videos through Vine, a social-media tool. (That way they might not say all those things that get them in trouble!)
  • Publish op-eds in local media on the IRA scandal. (There IS no IRS scandal!)
  • Plant questions at local events “to get the conversation rolling in the right direction.” (But no advice about what to do when somebody doesn’t follow that direction!)
  • Go on an “Energy Production Facility Tour” and be sure to “wear a hard hat,” posting this and other events on Vine. (Does that mean right next to all the oil spills in the pipelines?!)

There’s also a list of talking points for the media prepared by conservatives including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginn,i for “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation.” according to documents obtained by Mother Jones. Called Groundswell, the coalition includes congressional GOP aides and such notable wingnut as former ambassador John Bolton, former Rep. Allen West (R-FL). and GOP Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). Their plans include getting media coverage for their positions on issues such as voter ID, immigration reform, the sequester, and scandals while developing “action items.”

Groundswell has come up with ideas to attract minorities and lose racist terms such as “GOP.” A replacement term, according to the group, could be “Fredrick Douglas Republican.” (They might want to spell “Douglass” correctly.) They think that conservatives need to drop issues such as “immigration, gay marriage and boy scouts” to concentrate on slamming President Obama’s record and touting Benghazi as a full-fledged scandal.

While Groundswell is trying to attract minorities, states are busily disenfranchising as many of them as possible and alienating the rest of them along the way. The anti-immigration reform contingent is driving away Latino voters, and GOP policymakers have continued their crusade against women’s reproductive rights.

Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Conference, has assured the religious right extremists that the party is not in danger of becoming more “tolerant.” On Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, David Brody said that conservative evangelical voters were nervous that the GOP thinks “we have to be more tolerant.”

Priebus reassured Brody. “I don’t know if I’ve used the word ‘tolerance,’ I don’t really care for that word myself. I don’t have a problem with it, I just think it has another meaning politically that can go the other direction.” The party chairman said that the GOP will continue to represent “things that are very square with our beliefs as Christians” and recognize that “there’s only one sovereign God.” According to Priebus, the party will continue to embrace life and marriage.

This statement is a move backward from his position four months earlier:

“We do have a platform, and we adhere to that platform, but it doesn’t mean that we divide and subtract people from our party. I don’t believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics. [Republicans] have to strike a balance between principle and grace and respect.”

Priebus moved on to threatening NBC and CNN with a boycott of GOP primary debates over the possibility of films on both networks about Hillary Clinton. He accused them of flagrant “support” of a Democratic candidate for President of the United States, despite the fact that she has not declared herself a candidate.

He went farther in his complaints about the networks on Sean Hannity:

”In 2012 you had all these liberal networks with Republican primary candidates. Pitting one against the other, asking wedge question issues, then would later be used by the Democratic candidate. Isn’t that right?”

CNN is far from being “liberal,” and most of us think that the purpose of debates is to find out what the candidates think—or don’t, in the case of several on the stage last time. Yet Priebus continued whining:

“The problem we have now is we’ve got a bunch of moderators in the business of making news at the expense of the party and our candidates and we just can’t do it anymore. The moderators pushed the candidates in hypothetical directions that would never be reality.”

One of those hypotheticals was “What would you do in your first day of office?”

Priebus’ interview with Erin Burnett on CNN’s Up Front was pretty much the same until she showed a old clip at the end of the program with a statement from Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes:

“Any candidate for high office of either party who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake about journalists. And any candidate who cannot answer direct, simple, and even tough questions from any journalist runs a real risk of losing the voters.”

Fox’s chief political correspondent continued Ailes’ message during another Priebus interview:

“Historically national political parties have had no control over presidential primary debates. The media, sometimes partnering with other organizations, sets the terms and lets the candidate decide it’s in their interest to take part or stay on the sidelines.”

What Priebus really wants is a drastic reduction in the number of GOP presidential debates. He described the 2012 round as “a 23-debate traveling circus” with “those people that are actually spending their time and money promoting our opponents.” Too many candidates in a debate is “an unhealthy thing for our party,” Priebus said.

Both Priebus and the media have glossed over the last Hillary Clinton movie that caused the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United that allowed corporations to buy elections. A law prohibited corporations and unions from funding “electioneering communications” (aka broadcast ads naming candidates) within 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election, but the FEC permitted the showing of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, criticizing George W. Bush’s response to the terrorist attacks.

The non-profit group Citizens United pretended to be a commercial filmmaker and produced “documentaries” about candidates. When the organization tried to run ads in early 2008 on Hillary: The Movie which it planned to run on DirecTV, a federal court ruled that the ads violated the law because the sole purpose was to discredit her candidacy for president. The Supreme court not only overturned the lower court ruling but also permitted corporations to give vast amounts of anonymous monies to support candidates.

Priebus doesn’t care that NBC News, which would run the debates, is completely separate from NBC Entertainment, which would run the film. Priebus doesn’t care whether the documentaries might be partly uncomplimentary. But he’s not upset about the fact that Fox News, the media arm of the GOP, might be included in the production company of the unnamed mini-series that would star Diane Lane as Hillary Clinton. Priebus told CNN’s Candy Crowley that this was fine because Fox would simply be assembling the project, not airing it.

The RNC chair said that he plans to reject debate moderators unless he considers them sufficiently “interested in the future of the Republican Party and our nominees.” If Priebus can’t use the law to stop the showing of any documentaries about non-candidates, he’ll use blackmail.

June 27, 2013

Senate Moves, House Sits, Texas Goes Backward

The Senate actually did something, which happens occasionally. This afternoon it passed its immigration reform bill with a vote of 68-32. Not that this is necessarily a good thing because of the emphasis on border security and the requirement that all employers used the error-ridden E-Verify to check up on any applicants. Of the 32 GOP senators who opposed the bill, two were presidential wannabes, Ted Cruz (TX) and Rand Paul (KY). No GOP Senate leader voted in favor of the bill.

At least the Senate did something.

On the House side, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that they would create their own immigration bill. Thus far they’ve made no move toward it. They also haven’t done anything about the doubling of interest on student loans this Monday or overcome the sequester that’s biting into the economic recovery. Their only actions have been to re-overturn Obamacare and pass another anti-abortion bill, neither of which the Senate will support.

The House is also avoiding climate change. In describing his agenda for this , President Obama said, “We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.” Majority House Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) switched the subject to jobs, complaining about the president is “harming innovation [in a] direct assault on jobs.” No answer from the House about how to provide more jobs.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is hiding from the IRS debacle. The GOP has continually whined about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups. Yet Issa asked that the IRS limit its information to these audits, requesting investigators to “narrowly focus on tea party organizations,” according to spokesman for Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George.  Progressive groups got the same treatment as conservative Tea Party groups. The liberal group Catholics United, for instance, waited seven years before receiving tax exempt status, far longer than any tea party group had to wait.

There is a question about whether Issa was the instigator in concealing information from the public about the “inappropriate criteria” used to single out tea party groups–so-called “Be On the Look Out” (BOLO) memos–that also singled out progressive and “Occupy” groups.

George, a George W. Bush appointee, may be at fault. When asked last month if any progressive groups were targeted, he said that the IRS had not. Since then, he’s changed his mind. Also one of the main author’s of George’s report was relieved of his previous position as head of the special investigations unit at the Government Accountability Office because he wrote an incomplete report and was accused by a colleague of “pursuing overly sensationalist stories.”

After Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel appeared at the House Ways and Means Committee today, all the Democrats on the committee sent a letter to House Republicans demanding that they call the author of the audit report to return and testify under oath to explain why the report failed to tell the House that progressive groups were also targeted.

Issa has abandoned the IRS scandal that he created and gone back to investigating Benghazi.

Yesterday’s ruling that struck down DOMA has energized at least one member of Congress. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) claims that he and other lawmakers will revive the Federal Marriage Amendment. “A narrow radical majority of the court has, in my opinion, substituted their personal views for the constitutional decisions of the American voters and their elected representatives,” Huelskamp said. It’s almost a case of “the pot calling the kettle black” except the obstructionist GOP “narrow radical majority” isn’t really the majority—just the vocal.

One faint gleam of hope appeared after SCOTUS erased the Voting Rights Act  two days ago. Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI), instrumental in the 2006 VRA, is urging his colleagues to restore the provisions to protect voters. GOP Reps. Steve Chabot (OH) and Sean Duffy (WI) have declared support for a renewed VRA. After the Democratic caucus met to discuss the possibility of a new Section 4 to VRA, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she likes naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

One of the 13 original Freedom Riders in the early 1960s, Rep. Lewis (D-GA) was beaten by angry mobs, arrested, and sent to jail—several times. In response to the egregious SCOTUS decision giving all states the right to discriminate in any way that the GOP leaders wish, Lewis said:

“These men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines. They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost 100 years to get where we are today. So will it take another 100 years to fix it, to change it?”

At the same time that state GOP legislators are working day and night to alienate women through their anti-abortion bills, the Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus is kicking off an initiative tomorrow that he says is “designed to advance the role of women within our party.” He will be joined by a few female lawmakers—perhaps because he could find only a few female GOP lawmakers.

Called Women on the Right Unite, the project was announced the same day that a Texas GOP lawmaker described state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) and her allies as terrorists. Davis’ act of terror was to filibuster an evil anti-abortion bill during a special legislative session. The GOP lawmakers failed to get the bill passed before the deadline so they lied about when the vote was completed.

The GOP refuses to change its policies of similar legislation in other states and at the federal level. Republicans won’t stop mandating unnecessary medical procedures not recommended by women’s physicians, making idiotic comments about rape, and opposing pay equity. The party wants women to buy into their antediluvian view of the differences between the genders. While the GOP talks about uniting women behind their view, they will also continue to drive more and more women into poverty. That, however, won’t be part of the discussion.

According to the press release, tomorrow’s news conference will follow a strategy session at RNC headquarters, where committees and elected officials will discuss “how to better engage and support Republican women.” I’m guessing that there are several hundreds of women in Texas who could contribute to this discussion.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also took on Davis in his halting speech at the National Right to Life Conference when he described her as a teenage mother and the daughter of a single woman. “It’s just unfortunate that she hasn’t learned from her own example that every life must be given a chance to realize its full potential and that every life matters,” Perry said.

As governor, Perry executed his 262nd person, a 52-year-old woman, yesterday.  On the same day he signed into law the new gerrymandered map redistricting the state so that minorities can be disenfranchised.

Three cheers for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) after Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto accused her of declaring a “war on men” and trying “to criminalize male sexuality.” McCaskill’s sin, according to Taranto, was to put a hold on Lt. Gen. Susan Helms for vice commander of the Air Force Space Command because Helms had reduced the conviction of aggravated sexual assault to an indecent act without having watched the trial. Taranto blamed the assaulted women for drinking and then getting into a car with a man; the columnist claimed that she “acted recklessly.”

Current military law allows Helms to substitute her personal judgment for that of a jury that she selected. As McCaskill wrote Taranto:

“What [Helms] did was not a crime. But it was an error, and a significant one. I’m hopeful that our work this year will remove the ability of a commander to substitute their judgment, and sometimes also their ingrained bias, for that of a jury who has heard the witnesses and made a determination of their credibility and the facts of the case.”

The entire letter is well-worth reading because it shows how well the people of Missouri are represented by this senator.

Another woman to watch is Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) when she takes down federal contractor, Braulio Castillo, who claimed his foot injury (possibly sprained ankle) at a military prep school gave him special status as a “service-disabled veteran-owned small business.” Some of you may remember that Duckworth lost both her legs in the Iraq War when her helicopter was shot down.

Castillo’s company, Strong Castle, won contracts with the IRS worth as much as $500 million. Duckworth’s disability rating is 20 percent; Castillo gets (at least until now) a 30-percent disability for his twisted ankle.

The tape is 8 minutes long, but it shows how well another Democratic woman serves the country.

April 14, 2013

GOP Wants Theocracy in the U.S.

Once again, the U.S. voters have shown their ignorance. According to an Omnibus Poll, sponsored by YouGov.com and the Huffington Post, 11 percent of adults in this country think that the Constitution permits the establishment of a state national religion, and another 31 percent don’t know. The same study shows that 32 percent of the people actually want a Constitutional amendment to make Christianity the official religion of the United States. Only 52 percent oppose this idea.

Those people supporting a theocracy based on the “Founding Fathers” don’t know that James Madison, “father of the U.S. Constitution,” wrote about the need for the separation of church and state in an 1822 letter to Edward Livingston:

“Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together.”  He continued, “We are teaching the world the great truth, that Governments do better without kings and nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson: the Religion flourishes in greater purity without, than with the aid of Government.”

Ironically, the same percentage of people who want Christianity as a national religion are also the only supporters of the GOP approach to social and cultural issues. That leaves the other two-thirds of the people opposing the policies that failed to get a GOP president and Senate in the latest election. So what’s the GOP to do?

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus led the charge in rebranding Republicans, trying to move away from the Old Testament and toward greater success in next year’s election. The far-right groups are upset with the possibility that the GOP might change their position on social issues, especially marriage equality, and have threatened the GOP.

Thirteen high-profile conservatives representing influential groups wrote Priebus to rebuke him for his conclusions of the “autopsy” to determine the failure of the election. The letter concluded: “We respectfully warn GOP Leadership that an abandonment of its principles will necessarily result in the abandonment of our constituents to their support.”

Within the letter, the writers demanded a resolution to re-affirm the party’s 2012 national platform passed in Tampa (FL) and called for renewed bans on abortion and same-sex marriage. Nine of the 13 groups are 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, legally prohibited from supporting political parties. The IRS might want to look into these groups

Tony Perkins, president of the right-wing Family Research Council, has called on his people to stop contributions to the GOP until it starts “defending core principles.”

At the meeting this last week, the RNC faithfully toed the Christian line, confirming its opposition to marriage equality and its support of “core values” adopted last summer, including the statement that the country’s “rights come from God.” They rejected the recommendations from the “autopsy” that Priebus announced last month.

A committee vote changed the policy that the winner of a state caucus or primary automatically gets to control its delegates, but a later vote of all 168 delegates to the meeting didn’t pass the change. The purpose of this policy, adopted last summer in Tampa (FL) before the GOP presidential convention, was to keep candidate Ron Paul from getting votes. Without a change, the policy will have the same effect on his son Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) if he makes a try for presidential candidate, keeping him from getting delegates.

The new GOP policy permits more states to award delegates on a winner-take-all basis instead of proportionally, decreasing the possibility of grassroots candidates to get any support at the convention. The “autopsy” recommended regional primaries, giving the advantage to more moderate candidates who can raise a great deal of money.

It’s hard to see what “core principles” that Republicans aren’t defending. States are working even harder to ban abortions and eliminate reproductive rights. In just the first quarter of 2013, states proposed 694 bills relating to women’s bodies—all of them punitive.

Arkansas alone wants to defund Planned Parenthood and any organization that has contracts with abortion providers or referrers, including power and water companies, health insurers, and medical suppliers. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) wants the United States to be a place where no one even thinks about abortion.

State legislators are also proposing a plethora of bills to establish official state religions, eliminate sex education, and make sodomy illegal for everyone.

Perkins also wants the religious to keep their guns because the government may come after all those God-fearing, Bible-thumping evangelists. About the new gun legislation, which has almost no chance of passing, he wrote:

“I’m very concerned about this measure; I am concerned about where it may go once it gets to the Senate floor and what might happen in the House. This idea of background checks is very concerning given the fact that the United States military has been increasingly showing hostility toward evangelicals and Catholics as being somehow threats to national security and people that need to be watched.

“Well, what does that have to do with gun control? Well, what happens if all the sudden you are identified as an evangelical, bible-believing fundamentalist and the government decides you’ve got to be put on a watch list? Part of the provisions of this background check is kind of a system where if a caution comes up when they put your name in, you don’t get a chance to buy a gun.”

Meanwhile televangelist Pat Robertson is going after the country’s foreign policy. He thinks that Secretary of State John Kerry’s work on a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians violates Christianity,  warning that Kerry is “asking for the wrath of Almighty God to fall on this nation.”

Robertson also claimed that any deal including territorial concessions to the Palestinians, including Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, will lead to divine retribution and “catastrophic” consequences. “We should do everything we can to restrain our leaders from this course of folly and it is a course of folly and it will result in terrible suffering for people in the United States,” he said.

Every time that government entities meet, they should read the the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

March 24, 2013

Can We Keep the U.S. From Being a Total Theocracy?

Each week Steve Benen writes a segment called “The God Machine” on the Rachel Maddow blog. This week he addressed the “renewed tensions between the religious right movement and the political party that ostensibly fights for its interests.” The focus is on the autopsy that the Republican National Committee released this past week, the “Growth and Opportunity Project.”

“The Republican National Committee this week unveiled a lengthy report, providing an ‘autopsy’ of what went wrong in 2012, and offering a blueprint for how the party can get back on track. The RNC’s vision covers quite a bit of ground, detailing possible plans on procedure, tactics, strategy, outreach, and just a pinch of policy.

“But to an almost surprising degree, the Republican National Committee’s plan is entirely secular. The ‘Growth and Opportunity’ report uses the word ‘Reagan’ six times, but there are literally zero references to God, Christianity, and/or the Bible. For a party that has spent several decades claiming to be the arbiter of morality and “family values,” the RNC’s secularism was unexpected.

“And for the religious right, disappointing. McKay Coppins had an interesting report on this, asking, ‘When the great Republican resurrection comes to pass, will conservative Christians be left behind?’

“To many religious conservatives, the report was interpreted as a slight against their agenda and the hard work they have done for the party.

“’The report didn’t mention religion much, if at all,’ said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. ‘You cannot grow your party by distancing yourself from your base, and this report doesn’t reinforce the values that attracted me and many other people into the Republican Party in the first place. It just talks about reaching out to other groups.’

“Sandy Rios, an Evangelical radio host and Fox News contributor, said the RNC report’s proposals amount to a ‘namby-pamby’ abdication of religious values, and warned that the party could soon lose the grassroots engine that has powered its electoral victories for decades.

“’They should be deeply concerned they’re going to be alienating their base,’ Rios said, adding, ‘It seems to me that the leadership of the party is intent on that course. Most Christian conservatives are not going to be party loyalists over principle, and so the GOP has a lot more to lose than Christians.’

“The RNC’s Sean Spicer defended the report, arguing that the report ignored the religious right because the movement has ‘always done a fabulous job,’ so the party doesn’t see this as an area in need of attention.

“The truth is more complicated, and for the party, more politically perilous.

“Reince Priebus has spent a fair amount of time lately reflecting on 2012, and it seems clear that he sees the Republicans’ culture war as an electoral loser–the American mainstream, and especially younger voters, just don’t hate gay people, reproductive rights, and the separation of church and state the way the GOP base does. To grow the party, Republicans won’t just have to change the way they talk about issues, they’ll very likely to have to change which issues they’re talking about.

“It’s why the RNC’s report also makes no mention of ‘abortion,’ ‘marriage,’ ‘religion,’ or even ‘pro-life.’ These aren’t the issues that will help the party become more competitive on a national level.

“But this is where the Republicans’ identity crisis gets tricky. Reince Priebus wants to use religious right activists as the party’s grassroots base–there just aren’t enough oil company lobbyists to work phone banks and engage in door-to-door activism–but also wants to pretend the religious right agenda isn’t at the core of the party. For the movement, this isn’t good enough.

“Reince Priebus also wants to signal to the American mainstream that his party isn’t dominated by culture warriors, and the GOP’s support for a right-wing social agenda is purely superficial, but Republican policymakers–at the state and national level–continue to focus on reproductive rights and gay rights, either out of sincere beliefs or motivated by a desire to pander to the religious right movement the RNC is content to ignore.

“It’s an untenable, unsustainable dynamic. If Republicans continue to obsess over social conservatism, they’ll struggle as a national party. If they don’t, they’ll alienate the voters they need to compete. The RNC’s report hasn’t papered over this problem; it’s helped put a spotlight on it.”

Meanwhile, religious bills proliferate across the United States.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) has signed a bill that forces schools to give students an open forum to push their religious beliefs on others. Students must be permitted to express their beliefs at school events such as football games or morning announcements as well as organizing religious groups on campus. If a teacher assigns a paper on evolution, students can write about creationism with impunity. They can also refute any other science facts such as human anatomy or climate change.

Although Kentucky’s governor, Steve Beshear vetoed the “religious freedom” act, the bill goes back for an override vote next week and will probably pass. The bill reads:

“Government shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be substantially burdened unless the government proves by clear and convincing evidence that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A ‘burden’ shall include indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.”

In the past, similar laws have allowed graduate students in social work to refuse services to gay people, schools to fire women for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, pharmacies to not fill prescriptions for birth control, and wedding service providers to shut out gay and lesbian couples.

Other religious takeovers:

Vouchers: Ten states and the District of Columbia allow and in some cases, require that creationism be taught in private voucher schools.

Creationism in public school science classes: This year alone, Colorado, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma have attempted to pass bills requiring creationism be taught or allowing the questioning of evolution in the classroom. Montana State Rep. Clayton Fiscus (R-Billings) is trying very hard to get a creationism-in-class bill passed in that state.

Prayer/Proselytizing in public schools: Last year, Missouri passed their “right to pray” amendment which also permitted students to skip homework that they feel “offends their religious beliefs.”

Exemptions for “Conscience”: Leading the charge is the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a D.C. advocacy group that promotes policy that adheres to “Judeo-Christian tradition.” The EPPC is in the process of forming “religious freedom” caucuses in every state and has been successful thus far in nine states.

“Prayer” caucuses at the state level: Similar to “religious freedom” caucuses, “prayer” caucuses are the pet project of Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA). The Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation wants lawmakers to “use the legislative process–both through sponsorship of affirmative legislation and through opposition to detrimental legislation–assist the nation and its people in continuing to draw upon and benefit from this essential source of our strength and well-being.” Thus far eight states have a “prayer caucus”: Maine, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, and Mississippi.

It’s time for people in the United States to decide whether we will allow the far-right evangelicals to turn this nation into a total theocracy.

March 22, 2013

GOP Issues Autopsy for Last Year’s Election

Since the GOP lost the presidency, the Senate, and the popular vote for the House, there has been much gnashing of teeth and agonizing over why the intelligent people of the United States would not elect Republicans. The  initial GOP strategy has been to pay for a study that would explain what the rest of us all know—that the anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-woman party caters only to wealthy white men, probably mostly old.

Earlier this week, the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” aka “autopsy,” was released with much fanfare by Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus. Prepared by a five-member Republican National Committee panel, the 100-page report based on 52,000 contacts with voters, party consultants, and elected officials was designed also as a roadmap. In his introduction of the conclusions, Priebus said, “As it makes clear, there’s no one reason we lost. Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement.”

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Some of the recommendations don’t sound at all like the GOP. It calls on legislators to “embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.” Of course, the GOP definition of “reform” isn’t always rooted in reality.

Priebus said the RNC has committed $10 million to reach out to minority communities, but he said nothing about “self deportation” and “the most sweeping voting restrictions since Jim Crow.” Another area where Priebus will send money is the RNC technological infrastructure: Republicans are convinced that the only reason that the Democrats did so well in the last election was its massive database.

What will probably upset rank-and-file Republicans? Priebus praised Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) accepting marriage equality, saying, “I think it’s about being decent. I think it’s about dignity and respect, that nobody deserves to have their dignity diminished, or people don’t deserve to be disrespected.” No other GOP legislator is following Priebus’ lead, and this position is guaranteed to alienate the far right.

The document stated that “third-party groups that promote purity are hurting our electoral prospects.” There were no names, but it sounds like increased tension with the far-right wing, including the Club for Growth.

Imagine current GOP legislators agreeing with this paragraph from the report! I can just hear the screaming about “socialist warfare.”

“We have to blow the whistle at corporate malfeasance and attack corporate welfare. We should speak out when a company liquidates itself and its executives receive bonuses but rank-and-file workers are left unemployed. We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.”

In an interview with politico.com, Priebus said,

“[O]ur party has divorced itself from the American culture … [We] would make fun of the president for going on ‘The View’ — and you’ve heard me say these things — … you know, talking hoops for half an hour on ESPN.  That’s where a lot of America is at, and I think we’ve got to get with it …”

The message didn’t trickle down. Every year President Obama appears on ESPN’s March Madness to share picks for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) led the hue and cry that the president should be working on the budget and claimed President Obama’s act was “a shocking failure of leadership.” Scalise was followed by a YouTube video from the House Republican conference; other Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), went on social media to demand a new budget that they would ignore.

Speaking of leadership, the House went home today, having accomplished almost nothing except passing the continuing resolution that should have been taken care of last year. That chamber is scheduled to meet 126 days this year, an average of 2.4 days each week. That gives them 239 days off for the year. During their brief sessions, the only bills of substance, usually denying women and other people rights, are ones that have no chance of passing the Senate.

The report admits that minorities don’t feel respected by the GOP but doesn’t bother to explore why. Lots of recommendations about having a presence in black churches (who’s going to do that?!), hiring minority outreach directors, etc. but no substance. The states just continue to present bills to restrict minority and poor voters. Republicans still have a strong history of believing the president is a Muslim born outside the United States.

Even Republicans understand the problems of voter laws in GOP-controlled states. Michael Steele, who held Priebus’ job during the GOP’s highly successful win in 2010, said,  “How does Reince Priebus reconcile his approach and his agreement with voter registration policies that many in the black community view as anti-black, racist, whatever the term happens to be.”

These lines from the report show that the five people who prepared it are still pretty clueless:

“Our candidates and office holders need to do a better job talking in normal, people-oriented terms”

“Establish an RNC Celebrity Task Force of personalities in the entertainment industry … as a way to attract younger voters.”

“There have been too many debates [in the last two Republican presidential primary races.”

“RNC must rebuild a nationwide database of Hispanic leaders” and “The RNC should develop a nationwide database of African American leaders” and “APA [Asian and Pacific Islander] leaders.” (This just occurred to them?)

“We should speak out when CEOs receive tens of millions of dollars in retirement packages but middle-class workers have not had a meaningful raise in years.” (But not do anything about it?)

“Eight of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment in America have Republican governors.” (Skipping the fact that 7 of the 10 states with the highest unemployment in America also have Republican governors–GA, SC, MI, MS, NJ, NC and NV. GA and NJ weren’t in the bottom 10 four years ago, and 7 of the 8 states with the lowest employment were there four years ago.)

“Instead of connecting with voters’ concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers. We need to do a better job connecting people to our policies.”

Republicans should “encourage governors to embrace diversity in hiring and appointments to the judiciary, boards and commissions.” (Some people call this affirmative action that conservatives are suing institutions because they use it.

“Women need to hear what our motive is–why it is that we want to create a better future for our families and how our policies will affect the lives of their loved ones.” (Does that include GOP opposition to reproductive freedom, insurance coverage for contraception, the Lily Ledbetter Act, and the Violence Against Women?)

“We can’t expect to address these demographic groups if we know nothing about them.” (This is a new idea?)

The autopsy does have some specific plans. Chapter 43: Friends and Allies (Third Party Groups), Section 1:1 Define the D’s Early and Track ‘Em (page 54):

“Well-funded conservative groups should seek to hire activists to track Democrat incumbents and candidates with video cameras constantly recording their every movement, utterance, and action. Within the applicable legal constraints, we need to create our own video content, bank it, and release it when it suits our candidates’ needs.

“An allied group dedicated solely to research to establish a private archive and public website that does nothing but post inappropriate Democrat utterances and act as a clearinghouse for information on Democrats would serve as an effective vehicle for affecting the public issue debate.”

So one of the answers to winning elections is to stalk opposing candidates.

As Dan Berger pointed out, the report doesn’t overcome the White Vote strategy that prevents the GOP from changing because the party needs the racism, sexism, nativism, religious bigotry, and homophobia for its constituents. Republicans can’t change strategies because, in opposition to their core principles, they would have to embrace social and economic equality.

The Right believes that “property rights” are absolute and sacrosanct; that the free market system is based on the unfettered transfer of property (and the right to gouge people as much as anyone desires); and that market forces must not be interfered with–regardless of their accompanying deleterious economic, social and political effects.

The current GOP party is providing an embarrassing richness of ideas that will sink the ideas–and possibly the entire party. More about that in the next few days.

 

December 10, 2012

Tea Party May Suffer Reverses

Despite the looming “fiscal cliff,” the Tea Party that made big news last week. The 2012 election was not good for the movement. It succeeded in electing only four the 16 Senate candidates it backed. Tea Party Caucus founder Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) barely managed to survive a challenge from her Democratic opponent, and Rep. Allen West (R-FL), one of the top House fundraisers, lost. FreedomWorks’ $40 million in the 2012 cycle resulted in onlyl 25 percent success. Other Tea Party House members will be missing after December 31 this year.

Shock waves swept across the conservative community when Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), founder of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, resigned to lead the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank. The senator will be long remembered for his support of Rep. Todd Akin (R-MI) after the now-failed candidate for Senate claimed that victims of “legitimate rape” can’t get pregnant and his leadership in the opposition to Obamacare.

Other DeMint positions included barring unmarried and LGBT teachers in public schools and pushing a law preventing the discussion of abortion on the Internet between patient and doctor. He also wanted to strip all federal employees of collective bargaining rights and compared striking Chicago teachers to “thugs” in the Middle East. By putting a hold on a 2010 bill to sell land near the Smithsonian Institution for the National Women’s History Museum, he blocked the entire project. His excuse was that museums already existed for “quilters” and “cowgirls.”

The Senate has a rule that one person can anonymously stop any bill from proceeding. DeMint has threatened to shut down the Senate by placing a unilateral hold on every single piece of legislation in the Senate. He also said that he would only allow bills to proceed that his office had personally approved. His megalomania didn’t stop there: last year he told Fox Business that he was willing to cause “serious disruptions” by not raising the debt ceiling to get cuts to social programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

DeMint’s actions have alienated not only the Democrats but also his own party. For the past two campaigns he supported enough Tea Party members in Senate campaigns to keep a Democratic majority in that chamber. Two years ago, DeMint’s candidates included Christine “I’m not a witch” O’Donnell in Delaware, Ken Buck in Colorado, and Nevada’s Sharron Angle who threatened “Second Amendment remedies” if Congress didn’t change direction. All three lost their bid for the Senate.

Not satisfied with these losses, he moved on to unseat incumbents who were not “pure” enough in their conservatism, according to DeMint’s personal opinion. He broke his promise to GOP leaders to stop donating money to opponents of GOP Senate incumbents in the primaries when his personal super PAC gave $500,000 to defeat Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) in favor of far-right conservative Richard Mourdock. After Mourdock made his infamous speech about births from rape being a “gift from God,” he lost the former GOP senate seat to a Democrat, Joe Donnelly.

The Heritage Foundation will give DeMint a greater chance to meddle in GOP internal politics and provide him with a $1 million salary. Right now with $40,000 net worth he’s one of the poorest members of Congress.

The other South Carolina senator, Lindsey Graham, was so surprised with the announcement that he could barely talk. The question, of course, is DeMint’s replacement. The other South Carolina senator, Lindsey Graham, could barely speak about it.  Comedian Steven Colbert has offered, but Gov. Nikki Haley turned him down.

It’s not a plum position: DeMint was two years into a six-year term, and his appointed replacement will serve only two years before having to run for the next two years to finish DeMint’s term. Graham’s term is also up in two years. DeMint’s defection will benefit him because the state might not be able to find two strong candidates for Senate during the same election.

The more people have learned about the Tea Party, the less they approve of the movement. In the last two years disapproval has doubled from 25 to 50 percent while approval among voters is 21 percent. Even in DeMint’s highly conservative state, more people disapprove of the Tea Party than approve, and only 1 in 12 Republicans claim to be Tea Party supporters.

Last week saw two other blows to the Tea Party clout. One was the rapid departure of FreedomWorks leader and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) after a dispute about its future direction. Armey took an $8 million payoff and demanded that his name and photo have no connection with the organization. At the same time, Karl Rove has convinced his super PAC, Crossroads for Prosperity, to stop its ultra-conservative position and take any policy that will get GOP candidates elected. Hopefully that will result in a clash between DeMint’s pure policies and the pragmatic ones of Rove.

The same conflict will be evident in Congress. The movement was built on anti-establishment sentiment. Yet to be successful, elected officials have to operate within the establishment in order to be successful. The question is how Tea Party leaders and activists can do this without being part of what they see as the problem. An example of this is Sen.-elect Ted Cruz (R-TX), rising Tea Party star, who will be vice-chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, squarely in the middle of the establishment that he opposed during his candidacy.

Meanwhile Reince Preibus is struggling to maintain his leadership of the RNC. Showing his chops, he compared the U.S. president to the Italian ship captain accused of manslaughter after his cruise ship went down—without the captain.

The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), looked foolish when he proposed a bill to give President Obama the ability to raise the debt ceiling. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed, and McConnell immediately demanded that the bill have 60 votes to pass, in essence filibustering his own bill.

Now it’s a new week, and rumors abound inside the Beltway about talks between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). Details remain private, but staff and leaders describe these discussions as “serious.”  It also might be a stalemate. Boehner has another three weeks, and Republican leaders say that they operate best with a deadline.

April 9, 2012

Women Aren’t Caterpillars

The war continues. Mitt Romney keeps saying that women are interested in the economy. Finally I agree with him. But he, like all other Republican conservatives, try to separate the economy from their legislation against women in the economy.

The most recent example is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signing the bill that rolls back the state Equal Pay Law that offered protection from discrimination based on race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, etc.—and gender. Glenn Grothman, co-sponsor of the bill, thinks that women don’t need money the way that men do. “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious.” He’s overlooked the fact that 40 percent of women voters aren’t married.

Male conservative legislators opposing providing birth control for women use that key word “dependency,” a handy-dandy term showing how bad the safety net is. According to Michael Steele, former RNC chairman, government should not support women because then it would take over the role of husband and father. (Yes, I’m still shaking my head over that argument. Read it for yourself!) This follows Sen. Jim DeMint’s claim that the president wants to make people more dependent so that they will vote Democratic. According to Santorum and Steele, men who don’t have women dependent on them won’t be responsible to their children, their wives, and even themselves.

Mitt Romney has said “the issue that women care most about is the economy. They’re concerned about high gasoline prices, the cost of getting to and from work.” Romney doesn’t understand that women without birth control may not have jobs because they will be pregnant and then responsible for babies. The same with getting an education, useful in raising their wages and improving the economy. Women are also worried about whether they can live on their wages, even more of a problem if Republicans pass laws allowing men to be paid more than women.

Republicans have always had trouble getting women to vote for them; their recent actions are making this worse. Last week’s USA Today/Gallup Poll of voters in 12 swing states showed President Obama leading women by 18 percentage points—up 20 points from a month ago.

Both political parties hope that their sins will be forgotten by Election Day so that they can persuade voters with a fresh slate. The Republicans keep repeating their anti-women legislation. Last year, the first three votes of the triumphant Tea Party swarm in Congress were anti-abortion. This year, they continued to arguing about whether birth control should be covered as health care, a discussion that they consider more important than the eminent demise of the transportation authorization bill. Most women have noted Rick Santorum’s complaint that birth control allows lifestyles that are not “how things are supposed to be.” Of course, there’s also the infamous House committee panel on birth control with only men. Women are also concerned because of the Republicans’ determination to defund Planned Parenthood.

Where in the nation are women the worst off? In the states where they lack affordable hgher education, reproductive health care, and representation in Congress. And by coincidence in the South. Approximately 20 percent of women live in poverty in Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kentucky. West Virginia is the only state in the nation that doesn’t give women the right to breast-feed in either public or private places. The state also joins Arkansas in having a median income under $30,000. One-fourth of the population in both Arkansas and Oklahoma lack health insurance.

Missouri is following Arizona’s lead with its bill that permits employees to deny insurance coverage for birth control pills unless employees prove that the pills are used for a “medical need.” The Missouri House passed a bill permitting health care workers from participating in anything that conflicts with their conscience.

National Review columnist John Derbyshire has a new book, The Case Against Women’s Suffrage, that declares the United States would be a better country if women could not vote. It’s  “bad for conservatism” and therefore “bad for society.” Countries that rank the highest in the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index (aka the most gender equality) tend to also rank the highest on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. Possibly conservativism and gender inequality is “bad for society.”

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has tried to diffuse the Republican problem with women by pointing out that the war on women is as mythical as a war on caterpillars. As David Sarasohn pointed out today in his column in The Oregonian, “In most states, caterpillars don’t vote.” Women comprise over half the number of people in the United States, and they vote at a higher rate than men do.

While male Republicans claim there is no war on women, that it’s all about religious freedom, female Republicans know this is a war on women’s rights. If high-profile Republican women such as Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are angry at their party for attacking women, it stands to reason that conservative women across the nation are also angry. President Obama said that women are not a special interest group. Women are half of the American population, and any party that attacks them risks political extinction.

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