July 24, 2014

Immigration Activists Hold Funeral For GOP: It’s ‘Dead To Our Community’


Posted: 07/21/2014 4:38 pm EDT Updated: 2 hours ago



  • WASHINGTON — Dressed in black and carrying a mock coffin, a coalition of immigration activists paraded through the halls of the Dirksen and Hart Senate buildings on Monday morning as part of a protest of the Republican Party’s stance on immigration.

    During the staged funeral procession, demonstrators said that they wouldn’t cry for the Republican Party or mourn its death because its politicians are out of touch on immigration and no longer represent their community.

    "The Republican Party is essentially dead to our community. They have killed the dreams of thousands of people," said Greisa Martinez, an organizer with United We Dream, the youth-led immigration advocacy network that organized the event. Explaining that her mother is undocumented, Martinez said, "They have killed the dreams of my mother for not moving forward on immigration reform. They have killed the dreams of millions of people across the nation. And we’re here to say, ‘Enough.’"

    The procession started at Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) office and meandered through the halls, stopping at the offices of Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). At each office, the casket was laid outside the office doors while members of the procession, some of whom were undocumented, shared personal stories to suggest that the GOP is out of touch on immigration.

    On the verge of tears outside of Thune’s office, Excy Guardado spoke about how she came to the United States as a 4-year-old with false documents.

    "I came here to reunite with my family," she said. "I can’t imagine being forced to go back to my country Honduras, back to poverty, back to a place where I could die any day, back to a place that has no opportunities for me or my family."

    The protest comes as Congress debates how to handle a crisis at its southern border, where more than 57,000 unaccompanied children, many of whom are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, have crossed illegally into the U.S. this fiscal year.

    President Barack Obama has requested $3.7 billion to fund efforts to care for the unaccompanied minors and deter others from coming, but Republicans have resisted approving the request without conditions. Among these conditions is Cruz’s demand that Obama end a policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows young undocumented immigrants to apply to stay in the country.

    Activists at the Senate building on Monday decried Cruz’s proposal, as well as efforts to change a 2008 law that requires unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada to go through immigration courts before being deported. Another of the group’s targets was the Humane Act, a bill proposed by Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) that would expedite deportations of minors from non-contiguous countries.

    Humming "We shall overcome," and chanting "RIP GOP" — sometimes at a whisper, to accommodate the rules of the Senate buildings — the demonstrators left teddy bears outside of each office that they visited. Advocates said stuffed animals, rather than deportation, should welcome children fleeing violence.

    Many also carried rainbow flags with them, arguing that immigration reform is inextricably tied to LGBT issues.

    "If they take away my deferred action, I would be ostracized for the way I identify," said Tony Choi, who is an LGBT DACA applicant. "For other undocumented [members of the LGBT community], they also face mob violence, lynchings and even execution."

    • Alex Wong via Getty Images

      Members of United We Dream, Maria Palacios (L) of Tampa, Florida, and Yadira Dumet (R) of New York City, carry a mock coffin during the protest. Activists staged "funeral services for the Republican Party" because "the GOP has embraced radical right-wing policies and has actively called for the separation of families and the deportation of Dreamers."

    • Alex Wong via Getty Images

      The protest was acted out as a funeral service for Republicans because of their policies on immigration.

    • Alex Wong via Getty Images

      Oliver Merino of Charlotte, North Carolina, protests outside the office of Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

    • Saul Loeb/AFB/Getty Images

      Protestors with the group United We Dream leave teddy bears outside a congressional office.

    Holder Sees Racism in Obama Opposition — He’s Right

    by Morris Dees

    Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center


    Posted: 07/17/2014 11:05 am EDT Updated: 07/17/2014 11:59 am EDT

    Right-wing pundits are jumping all over Attorney General Eric Holder for daring to suggest on Sunday that "racial animus" plays a role in the "level of vehemence" that’s been directed at President Obama. They’re denouncing him for "playing the race card" and "stoking racial divisions."

    Who do they think they’re fooling?

    The rhetoric is what’s hateful. Calling people out for it is not.

    The racism Holder described has been obvious since the 2008 campaign, when Obama was portrayed as someone who was not a "real American" — a Muslim, a Kenyan, a communist, even a terrorist sympathizer.

    Since then, an entire movement has been built around the thoroughly discredited notion that the president’s birth certificate is a fake. And that’s just the beginning.

    Newt Gingrich has called Obama the "food stamp president" and referred to his"Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior."

    Rush Limbaugh has said Obama — and Oprah Winfrey, too, by the way — have reached the pinnacle of their professions only because they’re black. He added this week that "so-called conservative media types" praised Holder’s nomination only because he’s black.

    Glenn Beck has said the president, whose mother was white, has a "deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture."

    Conservative hero and former rock star Ted Nugent, who was invited to campaign with the GOP nominee for Texas governor, called the president a "subhuman mongrel."

    A Confederate flag was waved in front of the White House during last year’s "Million Vet March."

    U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina screamed "You lie!" during the president’s address to Congress in September 2009. When has that happened to a president before?

    All manner of overtly racist posters have been seen at tea party rallies, including one depicting the president as a "witch doctor."

    We’ve repeatedly seen stories about conservative politicians sharing racist jokes about Obama.

    And, we’ve seen an explosive growth of radical-right groups, including armed militias, since Obama was elected, and repeated threats that violence is needed to "take our country back" from the "tyranny" of Obama. This is part of a backlash to the growing diversity in our country, as symbolized by the presence of a black man in the White House.

    I grew up in rural Alabama during the Jim Crow years and lived through the civil rights movement, when white supremacists did everything they could, including committing violent atrocities, to turn back the tide of progress. And I’ve stared across the courtroom at some of America’s most vicious hatemongers — men like neo-NaziFrazier Glenn Cross, who recently killed three people and once targeted me. I know racism when I see it.

    No one, of course, is suggesting that merely disagreeing with Obama is evidence of racism. That’s clearly not true.

    But we have a political party and a right-wing media machine that pander incessantly to the racist reactionaries in our society, often through code words. It’s been going on since Nixon implemented his "Southern strategy" of appealing to white resentment in the wake of the civil rights movement.

    I wish it weren’t so. But it is simply undeniable. We should call it what it is.

    Planned Parenthood head: Supreme Court says it’s better to be a corporation than a woman


    By Moyers & Company
    Friday, July 18, 2014 18:55 EDT

    Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards [Moyers and Company]


    The following interview was aired on Friday on Moyers & Company

    BILL MOYERS: Welcome. In the 40-plus years since the Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to an abortion with its Roe v. Wade decision, conservatives and the religious right have crusaded to overturn it, sometimes peacefully, sometimes not.

    NEWS ANNOUNCER: Now in 1994, the violence reaches an all-time high.

    BILL MOYERS: Thanks to a sustained legal strategy in particular, which includes achieving a Supreme Court majority of five conservative Catholic men, all appointed by Republican presidents, they have been inching toward success. This session alone, the court limited health insurance coverage for contraception and made it easier for protesters to demonstrate outside abortion clinics.

    Meanwhile, several states have already passed regulations that effectively restrict access to safe, legal clinics. More than half the American women of reproductive age now live in states hostile to abortion access. Let me repeat that: more than half the women of reproductive age now live in states hostile to their constitutional right.

    In Washington, Senate Democrats have introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act to counter those state and local restrictions on reproductive freedom. At a hearing this week voices were heard both for and against the bill:

    NANCY NORTHRUP: This is the newest tactic in a four decade campaign to deprive women of the promise of Roe v. Wade. There have been, during those four decades, terrorizing physical attacks, clinics bombed, vandalized and torched, doctors and clinic workers murdered, and clinics blockaded. […] Today, women’s access to abortion services is being blocked through an avalanche of pretextual laws that are designed to accomplish by the pen what could not be accomplished through brute force: the closure of facilities providing essential reproductive healthcare to women of this country. At an alarming rate, states are passing laws that single out reproductive health providers for excessively burdensome regulations designed to regulate them out of practice under the false pretense of health and safety.

    TED CRUZ: The legislation this committee is considering is extreme legislation. It is legislation designed to eliminate reasonable restrictions on abortion that states across this country have put in place. […] And it is also a very real manifestation of a war on women given the enormous health consequences that unlimited abortion has had damaging the health, and sometimes even the lives of women.

    BILL MOYERS: We’ll talk about these and other developments now with Cecile Richards. Since she became president of the Planned Parenthood Federation in 2006, the number of its supporters has doubled to seven million. Before her current position, she organized low-wage workers in the hotel and health care fields in California, and founded the Texas Freedom Network to champion civil liberties and religious freedom in her native state. She also served as deputy chief of staff to Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House. Cecile Richards, welcome.

    CECILE RICHARDS: Thanks for having me.

    BILL MOYERS: An impartial observer looking on could reasonably conclude that you’re losing the political battle over abortion.

    CECILE RICHARDS: I actually don’t think that’s correct. Now, I will say that in 2010 the elections where frankly the Tea Party swept into the US House of Representatives and took over state legislatures and they have had a very clear agenda which is to roll back women’s access. But whenever these issues are actually on the ballot, whether in a candidate, or even, I’ll just give you an example.

    The state of Mississippi where, you know, the far right tried to push the legislature, pushed a bill that would’ve outlawed abortion in that state. The voters of Mississippi, not a progressive state I don’t think we’d say, they overwhelmingly, rejected that.

    BILL MOYERS: Yet 14 years ago a third of women of reproductive age lived in states considered hostile to abortion access. Now more than half do. Why is that not losing?

    CECILE RICHARDS: I don’t think it’s the states, I think it’s the state legislatures. I do think the state legislatures have moved dramatically to the right, and not just on women’s issues, on a whole, on voting rights issues, on a whole host of issues.

    Unfortunately, a wing of the Republican Party, the most extreme wing that believes abortion should not be legal, that believes birth control should not be available are really in charge of the primary process.

    BILL MOYERS: Is it conceivable to you that your opponents have won the moral argument, that is they’ve convinced enough people in conservative circles that abortion is morally wrong, leaving politicians that you talk about no choice but to go where the voters lead?

    CECILE RICHARDS: I fundamentally disagree with that. People, look, and we at Planned Parenthood talk to voters a lot, talk to the public a lot. People in this country believe that abortion is a very personal and often complex issue. They overwhelmingly believe, though, again that these are personal, private decisions that women have to be able to make with their doctors, with their family, with their loved ones.

    And that the last thing they want is politicians making the most personal decisions for a family, that is, again, that crosses party line, that crosses gender, age. And young people in this country can’t imagine going back to a time where abortion was illegal and not available.

    BILL MOYERS: You put your finger on the paradox. Surveys show the majority of Americans believe a woman and her doctor, not politicians, should be making these decisions. 68 percent of young Americans believe abortion services should be available where they live. Why doesn’t that translate into political success?

    CECILE RICHARDS: I think it does. And I’ll give you a couple of examples, but we have a long way to go. I give you that. I, the last presidential election to me was quite interesting. I mean, that was by all, you know, was going to be a very close election by all accounts. But we had two candidates, you know, Mitt Romney who said he wanted to overturn Roe, that he wanted to get rid of Planned Parenthood, President Obama who strongly supported women’s rights.

    We had the biggest gender gap ever in polling in a presidential election. And we just saw this in the Virginia governor’s race. Fascinating. You know, a race that I think folks thought was going to be very, very tough. Where you had two candidates. Terry McAuliffe, who supported women’s access to birth control, Planned Parenthood.

    Ken Cuccinelli, the sitting attorney general, who opposed basically all of women’s rights. That, I would say that election was decided by women, you know? There was a nine point gender gap for Terry McAuliffe. He won that race by about two and a half points. So it’s when women know what’s at stake and they go out to vote, they can determine pretty much any election in the country.

    BILL MOYERS: So given that, how do you explain that in our home state. Governor Rick Perry said that he intends to make abortion, “a thing of the past.” He’s succeeding there.

    CECILE RICHARDS: Well, actually I disagree. He’s not making abortion a thing of the past. He’s making safe and legal abortion a thing of the past. And I think this is what’s very distressing and is that what, of course, the impact of these regulations are disproportionately felt on low income women, on women who are, live in rural areas of the state.

    We’re having women now go across the border to Mexico because they can’t access legal abortion in the state of Texas. So again, you know, our goal at Planned Parenthood is to make abortion safe and legal and to help women get preventive care that they need to reduce unintended pregnancy in the first place. Unfortunately Governor Perry is doing away with all of that.

    When the governor and the legislature started going after women’s health care in the state, ending the women’s health program, dozens of health centers that didn’t provide abortion services had to shut down because they served low income women and they didn’t have the funds to continue.

    BILL MOYERS: There was a story out of Houston the other day that there’s now an underground railroad for women seeking abortion services.

    CECILE RICHARDS: Absolutely, I think what we’re seeing is pre-Roe activities now of women trying to figure out how to get around the country because there are increasingly states where you may have a legal right to an abortion, but effectively you have no access. In Texas it’s really in some ways the test case for all of these restrictions. We’re going to, I think, this fall by September when all of these regulations come into effect, we’ll see in a state as large as, that’s as large as the country of France there’ll be seven, probably seven health centers left in the state of Texas where women can access a safe and legal abortion.

    BILL MOYERS: Down from what?

    CECILE RICHARDS: Oh dozens. But I think the thing that’s important, Bill, is that it’s far beyond that. Because the impact is certainly on the ability to access abortion services, but it also has been devastating on women’s ability to even access family planning and basic preventive care.

    BILL MOYERS: I hear you saying and you and others that the constitutional right expressed in Roe v. Wade has hit the hard rock of political reality. Is Roe being rendered null and void by politics?

    CECILE RICHARDS: Well, we’re seeing some states, yes, where I believe the state legislatures are hollowing out the rights under Roe in every conceivable way. I think this court as well is, has been more sympathetic to those efforts to undermine women’s access. Again, not only to safe and legal abortion, but certainly to birth control as well. And that’s very worrisome.

    BILL MOYERS: Do you really think that Women’s Health Protection Act that was debated this week could undo some of the damage being caused by this onslaught of regulations?

    CECILE RICHARDS: Absolutely. And I think it’s so important. Essentially what the Women’s Health Protection Act does is says you have to treat women’s reproductive health care and abortion access like you do all other medical procedures, really to try to stem the tide of these extreme bills that are being passed that are created enormous barriers for women to just access basic legal rights.

    BILL MOYERS: You heard Senator Cruz call it extreme legislation. He says the state restrictions on abortions are, and I’m quoting him, “reasonable,” and are intended to protect the health and safety of women. He also says it’s people like you and your allies who are waging this war on women by supporting unlimited abortion that has sometimes cost women their lives.

    CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I just, I don’t even know where to start. It is ironic that he comes from the state of Texas where the restrictions upon women’s ability to access again preventive care, family planning, safe and legal abortion have never been worse.

    What we’re seeing in Texas is as radical as any state in the country in terms of eliminating women’s ability to plan their families. And, you know, I would also say to Senator Cruz it’s really important to recognize this is not a partisan issue for women.

    Women, 99 percent of women in this country use family planning, okay. So that’s a news flash, I think something he ought to look at.

    98 percent of Catholic women have used family planning at some point. So for women, birth control is not a moral issue. It’s not a social issue. It is a basic healthcare issue. It’s an economic issue.

    And women, men, the majority of this country supports Roe, they support women being able to make their own decisions about their pregnancies. And they, I can absolutely guarantee what they don’t want is politicians making the most personal, private decisions that women and their families make.

    BILL MOYERS: What is your response to what some of your opponents say that abortion is vastly different from other procedures and therefore needs higher medical standards? Is there any merit in that argument?

    CECILE RICHARDS: Absolutely none. I mean, again, abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in the country. And so it is, this is, and I think it, look, it’s something I think we have to talk about is that it is, this is something that has, one of the most incredible things that I think that has happened since the Roe decision, and I talk to doctors who were around pre-Roe who said, you know, routinely young healthy women were dying in emergency rooms across this country simply because they had no access to terminate a pregnancy in a medical setting.

    So, look, we’ve have had politicians admit it. You know, they say that they’re for women’s health and safety, but they’re not. They simply want to close down access to abortion services and as Governor Perry said, make abortion in his words, “a thing of the past.”

    BILL MOYERS: If the services continue to be closed down as is happening in Texas, why can’t hospitals start taking up the slack? Couldn’t they offer patients considerably more privacy, for example, than these health centers where there are protestors outside confronting the women?

    CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I mean, look, I’m very grateful to hospitals that do provide abortion services. And I would hope more of them would be. I mean, as you know, many of the hospitals in this country now are owned by the Catholic Church or have Catholic affiliation. They not only will not provide abortion services, they will not provide a whole host of reproductive healthcare.

    And so there has to be in this country a public health care system that will ensure that women can get access to the care that they need regardless of religion. And that is becoming increasingly a problem. And not only, it’s a problem in Texas, it’s a problem across the country.

    BILL MOYERS: Let me ask you this, this Hobby Lobby decision gives the owner of a business on religious grounds, the power to deny coverage of birth control to–


    BILL MOYERS: –his employees. Saying in effect, that the religious beliefs of the owner triumph over the preventive health needs for women workers. Capital has religious rights, labor doesn’t. Where’s this going to take us?

    CECILE RICHARDS: I don’t know. I mean, look, this is, this decision, which I know some people have described has narrow, is very troublesome. I mean, I think certainly Justice Ginsberg dissent is correct. This is full of minefields. I was actually there for the Hobby Lobby argument, and it was stunning to see the lack of regard for women.

    But from that decision, and other decisions that have, that, you know, certainly had the buffer zone decision, you know, it’s better to be a corporation today than to be a woman in front of the Supreme Court. And I think that the Hobby Lobby decision is just the beginning of giving corporations free license to obey those rules and laws that they agree with and not ones that they don’t agree with.

    BILL MOYERS: Giving the owners–

    CECILE RICHARDS: Absolutely.

    BILL MOYERS: –or the managers and share–

    CECILE RICHARDS: The CEOs, that’s right.

    BILL MOYERS: It’s the CEOs.

    CECILE RICHARDS: That’s correct–

    BILL MOYERS: They will be calling the shots more often?

    CECILE RICHARDS: That’s exactly right. How could the rights of one CEO, you know, or the beliefs, the religious beliefs of one CEO and his family trump the right of thousands of women to make their own decision? Nothing about the Affordable Care Act requires women to use birth control.

    But as we’re already seeing, millions of women are already benefiting from being able to make that decision themselves. To make their own choice about what kind of birth control they’d like to use, if they want to use it, and to get it paid for and to help plan their families.

    BILL MOYERS: Aren’t those owners saying, well, we can’t provide it because of our religious objections. But they can get it from the government.

    CECILE RICHARDS: Well, I mean, you look at this decision as if somehow that we’re going to just throw everything back to this Congress to fix? I just think it is, I mean, it’s not even laughable because, of course, the future and the healthcare of millions of women are at stake.

    But I– that’s where I feel like the Supreme Court completely overstepped their bounds, which is this is a law. This is a law that was passed by Congress, that is, that has now been in effect. Millions of women are accessing birth control.

    This is really opening the door to saying to employers, if you, or CEOs, you know, if you have a religious objection to this or anything else, I mean, with you, it’s a slippery slope here, that you can actually, you know, we’ll let the government try to figure out what to do about it.

    BILL MOYERS: Have we opened another stage in the old debate in this country over religious liberties?

    CECILE RICHARDS: I absolutely think so, I mean, we believe in religious liberties, but not the right of, to use your religion and enforce your religion, your religious beliefs on someone else.

    BILL MOYERS: So why do you think Hobby Lobby erupted in the public awareness? What was it about that decision that caught the public imagination?

    CECILE RICHARDS: Some folks aren’t necessarily following the day to day like you and I do perhaps on all these issues. And when they heard that the Supreme Court had said that there were women who couldn’t get birth control from their employer, I think people were just in shock. Really, disbelief, that somehow it’s 2014 and we are still arguing about women being able to access birth control? It just doesn’t make sense. Again, you have every woman in the country virtually using it. They don’t see this as a controversial issue.

    BILL MOYERS: What do you think will come from the court’s junking of the 35-foot buffer zone?

    CECILE RICHARDS: Well, we’re already seeing in Massachusetts that absolutely, immediately after that decision eliminating the buffer zone we had record numbers of protesters outside of the following women all the way up to the door of our health center in Massachusetts. These are not all kindly, elderly ladies simply whispering in the ears.

    And even if they were, it is the right of women in this country to be able to access healthcare that they need without harassment and without the advice of dozens of people outside their health center. I mean, can you imagine if, you know, if men in this country, before going into their doctor had to walk through a gauntlet of protesters telling them, you know, whether it’s not to get a colonoscopy or just go down the list. It’s incredible.

    I think now we’ll see challenges to buffer zones across the country. And look, I, it’s hard not to escape the irony of the enormous buffer zone that the Supreme Court enjoys in front of their court. And why we can’t afford that same right to women who are simply trying to access healthcare, I just don’t understand.

    BILL MOYERS: Did you ever see that HBO documentary the “Soldiers in the Army of God”? Here’s some scenes from it.

    PAUL HILL in Soldiers in the Army of God: Abortionists are murderers! Murderers should be executed!

    I definitely felt that the Lord wanted me to shoot the abortionists.

    BOB LOKEY in Soldiers in the Army of God: We need a civil war that will kill a whole lot of people.

    NEWS REPORTER in Soldiers in the Army of God: Investigators say evidence places Rudolph at the bombing. They aren’t sure whether others may be involved.

    REGINA DINWIDDIE in Soldiers in the Army of God: I hate to quote Chairman Mao, but he was right: kill one, scare a thousand.

    NEWS REPORTER in Soldiers in the Army of God: Dr. John Britton and clinic volunteer Jim Barrett lay dead. Police arrested Paul Hill a half block away.

    BILL MOYERS: Most people who oppose abortion wouldn’t advocate that kind of violence. But how do you explain the passion that enters into this debate?

    CECILE RICHARDS: Well look, I think this is always going to be a topic where people have strong personal feelings. But I do believe the rhetoric that is now, that is sort of tolerated, and frankly that we hear from elected officials oftentimes does encourage people to sort of put women in a certain place, certainly doctors in a certain place.

    And, you know, it’s very tough to watch this footage. But I think it’s important because, of course, this is why the Massachusetts buffer zone was passed in the first place. This was not simply an intellectual idea, it was because women and doctors and clinicians were under enormous personal safety risks. And–

    BILL MOYERS: The two people were murdered there.

    CECILE RICHARDS: That’s correct. And listen, in my eight years at Planned Parenthood, the toughest day was on a Sunday morning when I got a call that George Tiller in Kansas had been shot in his church. And amazingly courageous man who had cared for women in a, the most selfless and, again, always at risk for his own safety. We can’t go back to those days. And that’s where when you ask me where is this country, that’s not where this country wants to go. And we’re not going to.

    BILL MOYERS: Have you received any death threats?

    CECILE RICHARDS: I try not to read everything that comes in over the transom. And the folks I really, I think when I get up in the morning, I don’t fear for myself. But I take very seriously the safety of our doctors and our clinicians and our patients. And that’s foremost in my mind all the time.

    BILL MOYERS: Is there a war on women? Or has that become a convenient metaphor?

    CECILE RICHARDS: It’s not a term I use. But in some ways, if the shoe fits, you know, I feel like I don’t like to think there’s a war on women. But the evidence is that there is certainly within some, certainly some elements of the Republican party, and unfortunately a lot of the leadership, and a lot of politicians in this country, folks who are uncomfortable, I believe, with women being equal in America.

    And, I mean, it’s why we can’t seem to pass, you know, we can’t pass an equal pay bill, we can’t, we don’t want to have women access to reproductive healthcare. And I just don’t think young people in this country are going to let them get away with it. And that’s what, you know, that’s my hope, is that it’s our kids and their generation that aren’t going to go back to a day when women were second-class citizens in America.

    BILL MOYERS: Cecile Richards, thank you very much for being with me.

    CECILE RICHARDS: It’s so good to see you, Bill. Thanks for having me.

    BILL MOYERS: At our website, BillMoyers.com, there’s some essential reading on what we’ve just talked about, and a look at how the states and this year’s candidates are handling the issue of reproductive freedom.

    Two States Prove the Staggering Failure of GOP Tax Cuts, but in VERY Different Ways


    Posted by: Elisabeth Parker in Economic Issues,  July 17, 2014

    In response to the endless recession, two states took drastic measures to boost their economies: The GOP governor in one state pushed through massive tax cuts for the rich, while citizens in the other state voted for large tax increases on everyone — including the rich. Now, RSN reports, Kansas’ economy is a smoking ruin, while California’s is booming.

    How tax cuts in Kansas wrecked their economy.

    In 2010, Kansas’s GOP Governor Sam Brownback cut taxes for the rich by $800 million, and slashed sales taxes from 6.45 percent to 4.9 percent. Brownback also wants to eliminate state income tax entirely. Forbes reports Brownback and his Republican legislature cut individual tax rates by 25 percent; ditched taxes on sole proprietorships (home businesses), and passed measures to further lower income tax and sales tax rates.

    Fast forward four years later: How are all these tax cuts working out for folks in Kansas?

    Declining tax revenue: In the past year alone (June, 2013 to June, 2014), Kansas’ tax revenues have plummeted by a whopping 11 percent from $3.3 billion to $2.6 billion, according to Forbes. RSN adds that Kansas’ budget is currently $8 billion, and the tax cuts may slash $5 billion from those funds by 2019, according to the state’s Legislative Research Department.

    Lagging job growth: According to LJ World, job growth in Kansas lags behind in job growth at a mere 1.3 percent over the past year, compared with a more robust 3 percent nationally. Even the so-called “flyover states” surrounding Kansas are doing better.

    Increasing poverty: But tax cuts reduce poverty, right? Wasn’t that one of Brownback’s campaign promises? No dice. Think Progress took a look and found that poverty has increased from 13.6 percent in 2010 — while the national economy was mired in deep recession — to 14 percent in 2014. Worse, child poverty hit 19 percent — a record high — in 2011.

    Impending education meltdown: Brownback’s tax cuts have also set his state up for an impending school system meltdown. That first round of tax cuts for the wealthy alone comprised 8 percent of Kansas’ public school funding, according to RSN, and The Wichita Eagle reminds us that in 2013 a federal judge ruled that Kansas schools areunlawfully underfunded to the tune of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the children growing up in this school system may find themselves woefully unprepared for entering the work force when they grow up.

    How tax hikes in California fueled a booming economy.

    California faces many of the same recession-related challenges as Kansas does. The state  also suffers from decades of regressive GOP-led tax policies that have left schools and other public services strapped for cash (as explained in greater detail by the folks atCalitics).  Yet Californians took the opposite approach.

    In 2012, voters passed Proposition 25, which repealed the two-thirds super majority required for raising taxes in the state legislature. Voters then approved Proposition 30, a massive sales and income tax hike that hits everyone, but especially the wealthiest people in the state.

    According to RSN:

    Through the initiative, California voters passed tax increases for everyone, including the rich, marginally increasing the sales tax while creating new income tax brackets of 10.3 percent for those who earned between $250,000 and $300,000; 11.3 percent for taxpayers who made anywhere between $300,000 and $500,000; 12.3 percent for incomes of $500,000 to $1,000,000; and 13.3 percent for all incomes above $1,000,000. The richest Californians would barely notice it, given the immense wealth in California’s major economic hubs like Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the wine country.

    Just two years later, the Sunshine State’s future already looks much brighter than the smoking ruins of Kansas.

    Increased tax revenue: The New Jersey Policy Institute projects a $6.8 billion yearly gain in California’s state revenues, all of which will be pumped into the state’s once-crumbling education system. The state’s non-partisan Legislative Analysis Office anticipates a $9 billion yearly operating budget surplus by 2018.

    Booming job growth: It’s official. As of June, 2014, the Silicon Valley region of California’s 4 percent job growth rate is the fastest in the nation, according to the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, the state’s overall job growth for 2013 was humming along nicely at 2.9 percent – putting California third in the nation, behind North Dakota (due to its oil boom) and Utah.

    Decreasing poverty: Unfortunately, years of GOP-led regressive tax policies and stagnant wages cannot be undone in a scant two years. Just the Facts reports California has the highest rate of poverty in the nation — 16 percent according to the most recent available data from 2011. By other measures that account for skyrocketing housing costs, the rate is an even higher 23.5 percent. But the data still hasn’t come in for the effects of the booming job market, minimum wage hikes (the state  raised its minimum wage to $9.00 per hour in June, and cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and San Diego have raised theirs even higher), and all those job-creating tax dollars.

    A brighter future for education: School funding faces a long, uphill slog due to the deeply entrenched and disgustingly unfair Proposition 13 — which (to oversimplify) bases property taxes on the original purchase price instead of current assessed values. Yet the above-mentioned $6.8 billion will go a long way towards addressing these shortfalls and proves Californians are committed to educating future generations. Individual towns, cities, and counties have also passed school bonds to increase funding for schools.

    Read This One Document To Understand What The Christian Right Hopes To Gain From Hobby Lobby


    BY IAN MILLHISER MARCH 24, 2014 AT 9:36 AM UPDATED: MARCH 24, 2014 AT 10:57 AM

    2009 was a grim year for social conservatives. Barack Obama was an ambitious and popular new president. Republicans, and their conservative philosophy, were largely discredited in the public eye by a failed war and a massive recession. And the GOP’s effort to reshape its message was still in its awkward adolescence. If the conservative movement had a mascot, it would have been a white man dressed as Paul Revere and waving a misspelled sign.

    Amidst this wreckage, more than two hundred of the nation’s leading Christian conservatives joined together in a statement expressing their dismay at the state of the nation. “Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development,” their statement claimed, while “[m]ajorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.” Meanwhile, they feared that the liberals who now controlled the country “are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

    The signatories to this statement, which they named the “Manhattan Declaration,” included many of America’s most prominent Catholic bishops and clergy of similar prominence in other Christian sects. It included leaders of top anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, and of more broadly focused conservative advocacy shops such as the Family Research Council. It included university presidents and deans from Christian conservative colleges. And it included the top editors from many of the Christian right’s leading publications.

    Perhaps most significantly, however, the document’s signatories includes Alan Sears, the head of one of the two conservative legal groups litigating what are likely to be the two most important cases decided by the Supreme Court this term. Indeed, the Manhattan Declaration offers a virtual roadmap to understanding what religious conservatives hope to gain from Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby andConestoga Wood v. Sebelius, two cases the justices will hear Tuesday which present the question whether a business owner’s religious objections to birth control trump their legal obligation to include it in their employee’s health plan.

    The Roadmap

    “[F]reedom of religion and the rights of conscience” the Declaration claims, “are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.” In the eyes of the Declaration’s signers, liberal forces had captured the arms of government and they were now prepared to use their political dominance to force conservative Christians to betray their own moral values. And the signatories were particularly concerned about two items — abortion and gay rights:

    We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro-life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and pro-life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions. We see it in the use of anti-discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business.

    Remember last month’s fight over whether anti-gay business owners in Arizona could invoke “religious liberty” and get away with denying services to gay people? Look no further than the Manhattan Declaration to find the intellectual origins of the bill that would have given those business owners that right.

    Similarly, while the Declaration refers explicitly to “abortions,” the document calls for a vision of religious liberty that extends to birth control as well. According to Hobby Lobby’s brief in the Supreme Court, the company filed its lawsuit because it objects to “four drugs or devices that can prevent an embryo from implanting in the womb—namely, Plan
    B, Ella, and two types of intrauterine devices.” Hobby Lobby’s owners believe that these drugs and devices “risk killing an embryo,” and that providing a health plan which covers these services “makes them complicit in abortion.”

    It’s should be noted that Hobby Lobby’s concerns are not grounded in science. As a brief filed by multiple health provider groups — including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists — explains, “there is a scientific distinction between a contraceptive and an abortifacient and the scientific record demonstrates that none of the FDA-approved contraceptives covered by the Mandate are abortifacients.” So Hobby Lobby isn’t just claiming the right to object to abortion, it is claiming the right to label many common forms of birth control a form of “abortion” and object to those as well — even though drugs and devices don’t actually cause abortions.

    The Manhattan Declaration, in other words, predicts both of the major fights over “religious liberty” that confront the nation this year. While the Declaration warned about “anti-discrimination statutes” forcing business owners to take actions they object to on religious grounds, one of the leading lawmakers backing the Arizona bill admitted that it was intended as a response to instances in other states where anti-gay business owners were “punished for their religious beliefs” because they denied service to gay customers in violation of those states’ anti-discrimination laws. Similarly, where the Declaration speaks of conservative Christians being forced to “participate in abortions,” Hobby Lobby claims that the law is making it “complicit in abortion.”

    The Firewall

    In case there is any doubt, the Manhattan Declaration is a stunningly radical document. It opposes not just abortion and marriage equality, but also “non-marital sexual cohabitation” and “the discredited idea of unilateral divorce.” The Declaration also ends with a pledge to openly defy the law. “[W]e will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions . . . nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships [or] treat them as marriages or the equivalent[.]”

    Shortly after Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) vetoed the Arizona bill, however, one of the nation’s most prominent social conservatives explained that conservative objections to reproductive liberty and marriage equality do not necessarily need to end in civil disobedience. Marriage equality, the New York Times‘ Ross Douthat claimed, is inevitable. Yet, when it comes, Douthat also hoped for a world where, if “a Mormon caterer or a Catholic photographer objected to working at a same-sex wedding,” the rest of the country would allow them to “opt out” of any legal obligation to comply with anti-discrimination laws.

    Douthat framed this kind of arrangement as the terms of social conservatives’ “surrender,” although it is a weird kind of surrender that allows the losing side to dictate terms to the victors at the moment that society has recognized many of their longstanding views as abhorrent. If Brown v. Board of Education had followed Douthat’s logic, it would have said that segregated schools violate the Constitution — except that whites-only schools are fine in Alabama and Mississippi.

    Nevertheless, Douthat’s column provides a helpful window into the kind of reasoning that animates the Hobby Lobby litigation, the bill Brewer vetoed and the Manhattan Declaration. The logic of all three is that religious conservatives must comply with the law — but only up to a point. When the law asks employers to cover abortions that aren’t actually abortions, or when it asks them to treat gay men, lesbians and bisexuals as if they are human beings entitled to the same dignity as straight men and women, then the Christian right must be given a special right to defy the law. And if the courts won’t give it to them, then the Manhattan Declaration calls upon conservative Christians to refuse to comply with the law regardless.

    If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood lose, then it remains to be seen whether either of them will actually take up this call for disobedience. Should they win, however, there should be no doubt what the Christian right’s next move will be. The Manhattan Declaration lays out two foes: reproductive liberty and gay rights. Hobby Lobby asks the Court to take care of the former. The next lawsuit willtarget the latter — and it will be able to cite Hobby Lobby as a powerful precedent supporting anti-gay discrimination.

    Ian Millhiser is ThinkProgress’ Justice Editor. You can follow him on Twitter at @imillhiser.

    Phil Donahue Unloads on Fox, Cheney and What Happened at MSNBC

    Phil Donahue Unloads on Fox, Cheney and What Happened at MSNBC

    By Elias Isquith, Salon

    12 July 14

    Legendary TV host was fired for opposing Iraq war. Here’s how he feels seeing the return of those who got it wrong

    s has been well-documented, and will hopefully long be taught in journalism schools nationwide, the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not the American mainstream media’s finest hour. There are plenty of obvious examples — Judith Miller’s reporting for the New York Times, Jeffrey Goldberg’s stuff for the New Yorker, almost everything Peter Beinart did at the New Republic — but perhaps the incident that best encapsulates the hysterical and illiberal atmosphere of the time is the way MSNBC treated Phil Donahue.

    The talk-show legend was, at the time, one of the few voices in the mainstream standing against the march to war. He invited antiwar voices onto his show. He questioned the government’s argument for why war was necessary. He cautioned against rushing into an undertaking as grave, monumental and consequential as war. He was getting fine ratings. But he made Chris Matthews — at the time a huge Bush booster — uncomfortable, and network executives worried they’d look bad unless they, too, were “waving the flag at every opportunity.” So Donahue was fired. And then the U.S. went to war. And we all know how that went.

    More than a decade later, Iraq is still in chaos — and the media is still giving ample airtime to the very people who created and perpetuated the jingoistic, authoritarian environment that made the suits at MSNBC so very concerned about looking out of step. But while the folks at the networks busied themselves with broadcasting Bill Kristol’s latest insights, Salon figured we’d give Donahue a call and ask him his thoughts about Iraq, the media and the current state of American politics. Our conversation is below, and has been edited for clarity and length.

    First of all, what are you up to nowadays?

    Well, as you may know, I produced a documentary. It’s an anti-Iraq War documentary. It’s titled “Body of War,” and it is available on Netflix. The film did very well in festivals. People’s Choice at the Toronto International Film Festival, for example, and we also did well in many other places. The documentary has played in quite a few places around the country. Alas, we’ve sold no popcorn, and no distributor would take it still. Iraq docs were falling off the marquee. It’s not “a take your girl to the movie” movie.

    Have you been following the coverage of ISIS/ISIL’s activities in Iraq?

    Oh yes. I paid a lot of attention. I’m very curious about — I used to be [in the media], so it’s sort of like having a window onto the floor of the company you used to work for, and I’m very interested in it.

    A lot of people — not just on the left, but those in general who either did not support the war from the beginning or turned on it early — were upset to see a lot of the most vocal, prominent and unrepentant supporters of the invasion being treated as experts, and resuming their role as pundits and talking heads. Did you share that frustration?

    Yes. Oh, sure. How can you not, seeing Dick Cheney instruct us on foreign policy?

    One of the things I don’t think has had enough attention [is that] every major metropolitan newspaper in this country supported the invasion of Iraq. Now, if there’s a major metropolitan newspaper in this country that condemned the invasion that I don’t know about, I’m happy to hear from them, and I will apologize, personally. Seventy-seven United States senators voted for the war. Hillary voted for the war, John Kerry voted for the war, Chuck Hagel voted for the war, and there were others; only 23 senators voted no. Of the 23, only one was a Republican — Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and he lost his seat at the next election. (Thank God the voters of Rhode Island were good enough to elect him governor the following year.)

    The war, which was … a massive blunder, never came up during the presidential contest in either ’08 or ’12. It never came up. The closest it came to the surface was Ron Paul, who did say on the stump, “Why are we invading all these countries? What are we doing?” As you see in my film, the actual debate on the floor of the House and the Senate, of the Iraq War resolution, which unconstitutionally gave Bush permission to invade, it wasn’t in any way obedient to Article I, Section 8 [of the Constitution], which states only Congress can declare war. Congress did not declare war. Congress did not want the job. It’s a third rail issue; if they’re wrong then that could be it. So they, hands over their eyes, handed the president a piece of paper which gives him permission if he thinks he should, and if it doesn’t work, they’re able to say, “Well, he said, he thought, he told us …”

    I’d very much like you to see the behavior of the congressmen [in my film]. They were summoned to the White House by WHIG, White House Iraq Group. This is a Karl Rove committee that included the advertising warriors who named our invasion “Shock and Awe,” and “Rolling Thunder,” like video games. And they gave them their talking points: “A smoking gun will become a mushroom cloud”; “The longer we wait, the more dangerous he becomes”; “Saddam has more weapons of mass destruction than Hitler ever had”; “I see Hitler in Saddam Hussein.” And they read this, they’re looking down at the piece of paper, in what was at most a shell debate, that led to the deaths of over 4,500 service people, men and women both, not to mention how many injuries, we’re not even sure, we’re not even sure how many Iraqis are dead, and the refugees are in the millions.

    This is unbelievable. You’ve got to see this debate. It’s truly a very instructive piece on what you can do if you scare the people. George Bush took this nation, the mainstream media included, and led it right into this war. It was an amazingly executed, brilliantly executed, plan. The politics of fear. And so when I see Cheney, my god, Americans got a lot out of trying, we haven’t won a war, and we’re spending $2 billion a day on things that go “boom.” We have become a warrior nation. We have no respect for diplomacy. We have to be tough, and we don’t talk to people we don’t like. We don’t talk to Ahmadinejad; Putin talks to Ahmadinejad. We didn’t talk to Putin; Putin talked to us. And we’re beginning to show an unbecoming insecurity. We’re stomping around: “Exceptionalism! Exceptionalism!” Well, easy, big fella; it would be better if someone from another country said we were exceptional.

    Do you think if the war had been debated more sincerely, and its presentation to the public hadn’t been so sanitized, folks like Cheney would have a harder time reemerging as they have?

    Well, let’s understand that he’s reemerging on Fox, right? I mean, I haven’t researched this, has he been on any of the major networks? Has he been on ABC? He’s not been on “Meet the Press,” has he? I don’t know.

    I don’t know for sure whether he has, but I do know if it wasn’t him it might have been Dan Senor, or Paul Wolfowitz or Richard Perle —

    I haven’t seen Richard Perle … I mean, he don’t get around much anymore.

    There was actually a piece recently featuring him.

    Really? Who did it?

    It was the National Journal, and he was the main source. It was an article about how the neocons are back to promoting Ahmad Chalabi.

    I didn’t see that today, but I know Chalabi is resurfacing. Well, y’know, [the Iraq War proponents are] in the [TV booker's] rolodex, and it’s about the “get.” And the get value rises with proximity to the biggest get, and that’s the president. And so we still have Cheney, with the vice president identification historically, and so he becomes valuable. Media elite cover media power. That’s why you won’t see Amy Goodman on “Meet the Press.” That’s why people like Dennis Kucinich are marginalized. The liberal is “the political vision that dare not speak its name,” as Oscar Wilde said. It’s like, we’ve been so marginalized that we don’t call ourselves liberals anymore, we’re “progressives” now. Antiwar demonstrations are not really covered — they weren’t, certainly not with the gusto we heard when the bomb-throwers, at their rallies, they were all over the news. And now we have John McCain who seems ready to bomb everybody …

    The other thing, Elias, you don’t hear, is Fox pundits [who] say anything positive about Barack Obama, because if they do they risk losing their base. They are trapped in a format which is hugely successful. I think Fox does a billion dollar profit a year, net. I mean this is the jewel in the crown of for-profit corporations … Rupert Murdoch reigns, and for somebody like Charles Krauthammer or George Will or Sean Hannity to say something positive about Obama — that would be akin to a rock ‘n’ roll radio station playing classical music. If you do that, if a rock ‘n’ roll radio station played Mozart, they would lose their audience immediately; and in the same way, if one of the Fox pundits said something even remotely positive about Obama, the base would say, “What, are you losing your nerve?” It’s too risky. You’re making $1 billion per year. “There ain’t nothing broke about our corporation; don’t fix it.”

    The result is, I happen to think these were probably A students — Krauthammer, George Will, those who speaks in tablets, these were very gifted people; they’re the sons my mother wanted; these were the guys who raised their hand in class. And we’re getting only half their wisdom and insight, because they’re restricted by the format. We aren’t treated to what they might be sharing with us, other nuances. It’s like their arms can only extend so far from their bodies, they can’t go all the way because then we might learn something interesting and insightful that their gifts could bring us. So before their feet hit the floor in the morning, they’re thinking about what they can do to blast the president tonight. Krauthammer used the word “stupidest” a couple weeks ago. The “stupidest” thing a president ever did … But there aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to meet their denunciations of the president, and the result is they’re all becoming one-trick ponies, because they can’t get out of this straitjacket of the format, which earns Fox $1 billion per year. Who wants to fool with that? The issue now is, will they have legs? How long can they draw a crowd with this kind of narrow commentary?

    Do you think that the same problems afflict MSNBC?

    I do. But it’s not as bad. It’s not as bad. MSNBC people allow themselves to criticize the president — and the president is vulnerable. I’ve criticized him myself in one of my rare guest appearances. I was on Piers Morgan and I criticized Obama. I think these signature strikes are not only unconstitutional, I think they’re immoral. I think drones are the most cowardly instruments in the history of warfare. A guy sits in an air-conditioned cage on a padded chair, looking at a TV monitor at an image 4,000 or 5,000 miles away, and we are killing wedding parties and children … We killed an American citizen. I mean, and this is with the total support of the people who bragged about America the most; America, America, the Constitution. And they totally turned their back on the bedrock of the Constitution. We have people in cages for 15 years, no Red Cross, no visitation, no letters, no nothing. For 14, 15 years. No habeas corpus. And these blatant violations are met with silence. We are a nation of law unless we’re scared.

    So, to expand a bit on what you just said, would you consider killing someone with a gun to be more cowardly than doing it with a knife?

    Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, consider the guy in the cage and the boots on the ground. Who’s safer? Who’s safer, the drone operator? The guy in the cage with the joystick and the ability to fire a hellfire missile on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV — that’s a drone) is certainly safer than the boots on the ground. That’s the attraction of the drone.

    But we’re killing children! And how much attention are we getting on this? This is horrible! The president signs off on a signature strike from the Oval Office, explains the person we want to assassinate. The legacy we are leaving our children is scary. Are they gonna worry about getting on the wrong bus? Entering the wrong marathon? Are we gonna get stark naked in order to get on an airplane?

    You think, then, that these strikes may exacerbate the threat of terrorism in the future?

    Absolutely! I worry about it! And so do millions of other Americans, and their voices are not heard. If you say, “Why did they knock the towers down?” you’re blaming the victim. You can’t even ask that question. We’re not even allowed to wonder, because then … At every turn, you’re stopped … I can’t get over this: If you question a military foreign policy decision, you’re not patriotic; you’re not supporting the president. If you send troops, then you have a responsibility to shut up and sing. If some of the troops die, and you criticize the action, you’re defiling the valor of the soldier who died. You’re stopped there.

    To your point, it’s not only civilians who get held to that kind of rigid and blinkered view of patriotism. As the whole Bowe Bergdahl saga showed, troops can become targets, too.

    Right, he certainly was, and how about Snowden? All he did was reveal that there are 16 intelligence agencies. Maybe 17, maybe 14. But isn’t’ that amazing? And [government intelligence agencies] farm out the work! The work of these intelligence agencies is largely done by civilians! We have thousands and thousands of Americans with a top security clearance. And a lot of them drink alcohol, just like I used to. And what are they saying to the guy in the next stool?

    You mentioned a bit ago that antiwar voices aren’t heard. You also noted that part of the reason Cheney and his fellow travelers are back is because they’re big names in every TV booker’s rolodex. So my question is, are you in that rolodex? Have you been asked to appear on any of these shows?

    No — occasionally … [Cheney et al.] are the news, and I’m not. “You’re a talk show host, you’re not us; you’re not a reporter.”

    Before I let you go, I wanted to ask — and I know it’s 2014 so this is premature — but I wanted to ask if you know who you’re going to support in 2016? Are you looking at anyone on the Democratic side, or a possible third-party candidate? I somewhat doubt you’re paying that kind of attention to the Republicans …

    I was on Nader’s bus in 2000. We would do super-rallies … It was a very exciting time for me. Because of my show, I had never really been an active participant in anybody’s campaign. And I always wanted to be … I couldn’t get on the [campaign] bus because of my show … But in 2000, I got on the bus; I campaigned for Nader. And then, to save my marriage, I got off the bus in ’04 … My wife was ready to leave me; we were going to elect another Republican, [she said].

    I very proudly voted for Obama. I mean, really, I’m not ashamed to say that when I saw the … I mean, I interviewed Rosa Parks! You know, “Back of the bus, lady!” From that, to “I, Barack Obama, do solemnly swear.” Well, you know, that moved me. That really moved me. I went, “Wow.” And it’s been somewhat of a disappointment the last two years. But it certainly could be worse, and I’m not sorry I voted for him. I think he’s an honorable man. But as to who I’m going to vote for to replace him? I’m going to hold my cards there … I’ve been maybe a little too enthusiastic and jumped the gun the last several times, so we’ll see. Although, I got my eye on Bernie Sanders …

    The 8 Best Lines From Ginsburg’s Dissent on the Hobby Lobby Contraception Decision


    —By Dana Liebelson

    | Mon Jun. 30, 2014 11:32 AM EDT

    Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Charlie Neuman/ZUMA

    On Monday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg penned a blistering dissent to the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that the government can’t require certain employers to provide insurance coverage for methods of birth control and emergency contraception that conflict with their religious beliefs. Ginsburg wrote that her five male colleagues, "in a decision of startling breadth," would allow corporations to opt out of almost any law that they find "incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs."

    hobby lobby

    Read more: In Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court chooses religion over science Jay Mallin/ZUMA

    Here are seven more key quotes from Ginsburg’s dissent in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:

    • "The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage"
    • "Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community."
    • "Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults."
    • "It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage."
    • "Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…Not much help there for the lower courts bound by today’s decision."
    • "Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be ‘perceived as favoring one religion over another,’ the very ‘risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude."
    • "The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield."

    Immigrants, the Texas Tea Party’s Pinata


    I’ve said it before back in 2006.

    In Houston, a meeting on the immigration issue held by Houston City Councilwoman Carol Alvarado, was filled with leaders from all walks of life. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Independents, and Democrats. Even leaders of the Hispanic caucus of the Republican Party not only attended, but volunteered time and money to denounced their party’s stance on immigration bashing, which was very appreciated by those in the audience. It was very clear that the majority is against the bashing of the immigration piñata .

    From the Texas Tribune

    For Texas Tea Party leaders, Gregg Abbott, Ted Cruz, and Dan Patrick, bashing the piñata of immigration for a shower of votes is an easy distraction from the failures of their Party. It is a simple minded issue used to unite and rally the worst of their racist base.
    The immigration issue is important, but the reason for raising this issue by the Texas Tea Party is not homeland security, or saving American jobs, or providing cheap labor for the homebuilders, or the cost of illegal immigrants on our Government services. It is nothing more than a photo op, a chance to look strong while doing nothing to solve the problem.
    The Texas Tea Party has no plans to address immigration reform. This display of "compassion" towards the children who recently crossed the border is nothing more than a opportunity for free TV time. Once elected they will continue to do nothing to address immigration policies just like they have done since 2000. Their inaction has been praised by those who depend upon cheap labor, ie, their donors.
    It’s not the first time they have neglected an issue until it is an emergency situation. After being in office for over a decade the now defunct Texas Republican Party has neglected our water supplies and transportation funding that will require raiding our Rainy Day Fund. Instead they have focused their time and our money on limiting the right to vote, stopping marriage equality, suing (and losing) the Federal Government, and putting a gun in every classroom.
    The immigration issue is complicated and should not be reduced to simple-minded, short-sighted, mean-spirited, hateful election distraction attacking those looking for the American dream while our state  is mired in emergencies. Instead this issue must be resolved with common sense, business sense, and most of all compassion for those affected.
    With Cruz, Patrick and Abbott, don’t expect this to happen.

    Posted by John Cobarruvias 

    Texas Democrats: Republican policy platform is ‘disgusting’


    Texas Republican Convention

    A delegate wears a decorated hat during the Texas Republican Convention at the Fort Worth Convention Center in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 6, 2014.

    Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Zuma Press

    Texas Democrats: Republican policy platform is ‘disgusting’

    06/19/14 11:15 AM—UPDATED 06/19/14 01:11 PM


    By Adam Serwer

    Texas Democrats are criticizing a controversial policy platform adopted by the state Republican Party and released in full Thursday, calling it “shameful and disgusting.”

    The platform calls for the repeal of the Voting Rights Act, endorses sham “conversion therapy” that seeks to change the sexual orientation of gays and lesbians, and puts forth a harsh anti-immigrant policy plank that calls for the repeal of a law signed by Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry granting in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

    “The GOP platform isn’t worthy of Texas. It is shameful and disgusting,” the state’s Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer said in a statement Wednesday.  “If Republican candidates have even a shred of integrity they will turn their backs on this disgraceful platform and join Texas Democrats in support of true Texas values.”

    Despite Democratic prophesies, the Lone Star state has remained in Republican hands, voting Republican in every presidential election since 1976. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis is trailing in the polls against Republican candidate Greg Abbott. Texas Democrats are seizing on the platform in an effort to paint their Republican counterparts as intolerant and out of touch, and as part of a larger, thus far futile effort to turn the state blue.

    The platform, in addition to the usual conservative policy prescriptions that you would expect in a Republican platform, also contains other strange declarations. There’s support for privatizing social security, a demand to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and demands to outlaw abortion. But there’s also planks expressing opposition to mandatory vaccination, support for creating religious exceptions to discrimination rules, and a demand that “the Texas Legislature ignore, oppose, refuse, and nullify any federal mandated legislation which infringes upon the states’ 10th Amendment Right.”

    Some of that may sound weird – or as Texas Democrats put it, “disgusting.” But Texas Republican Party Chair Steve Munisteri says that the Texas Republican Party platform does not necessarily represent the views of the Republican Party of Texas.

    “It’s false to represent that each one of those platform planks necessarily represents the view of the majority view of either the majority of the delegates let alone a majority of Republicans,” Munisteri said. “It’s not the Texas Republican Party, it’s the delegates on the platform committee. The Texas Republican Party has millions of people who vote for it and every individual Republican has their own views on issues.”

    Munisteri said that most of the plans in the platform aren’t voted on by a majority of the delegates. Instead, a platform committee is elected from delegates from each of the 31 state senatorial districts, and the committee drafts the platform. The platform has to be adopted in whole or not at all, so according to Munisteri, delegates often end up voting for it even if they have reservations. Here are some of the stranger planks – some of them, Munisteri declined to comment on, saying he hadn’t read the entire platform yet or discussed it with the authors.

    Anti-vaccination: The Texas GOP platform states that “All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves, or their minor children, without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines or any medical database that would contain personal records of citizens without their consent.” Texas currently requires that children entering public or private school be vaccinated. Choosing not to vaccinate can have terrible consequences for others, because it diminishes “herd immunity,” or the ability of a community to resist outbreaks of disease. The U.S. has seen an increase in the spread of preventable diseases because of anti-vaccination campaigns. “We had an issue here several years ago where [human papillomavirus] vaccines were going to be forced on the schoolchildren here,” Munisteri said. “That may be what that’s mainly in reference to.”

    The National Defense Authorization Act: The Texas GOP platform calls to “urge our government to terminate any practice of detention without due process, including, but not limited to, any enforcement of federal law by the military within the State of Texas, under Sections 1021 and 1022 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).” The plank appears to refer to the controversial 2012 NDAA, the platform drafters seem unaware of the fact that defense authorization acts are passed every year and the sections change. Sections 1021 and 1022 of the 2014 NDAA, for example, deal with “Clarification of sole ownership resulting from ship donations at no cost to the navy,” and “Availability of funds for retirement or inactivation of Ticonderoga class cruisers or dock landing ships.”

    Reparations: The platform states “We oppose any form of reparations,” though it does not say for what. “Does that just say reparations?” Munisteri asked. “Then I just take it as it says, the United States is not going to pay any reparations for any other country.”

    Climate change: It’s not happening, according to the Republican Party of Texas, whose platform states that “ ‘climate change’ is a political agenda which attempts to control every aspect of our lives. “We urge government at all levels to ignore any plea for money to fund global climate change or ‘climate justice’ initiatives,” the platform reads.  It also states that “we strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests and private property use. We believe the Environmental Protection Agency should be abolished.”

    Benghazi! The platform calls for “Congress to act on the Benghazi cover-up and the failure to protect American citizens including United States military personnel by the Obama Administration; and we call for Congressional investigations into other federal agencies.” They don’t state which federal agencies should be investigated, or for what reason. Later, the platform demands “the United States House of Representatives to appoint a select committee and a special prosecutor.” There is already a select committee on Benghazi, just the latest of several committees to examine the 2012 attack.

    Religion and discrimination: In keeping with “religious freedom” laws championed by conservative lawmakers across the country, the 2014 Texas GOP platform states that “The Republican Party of Texas will protect the rights of commercial establishments to refuse to provide any service or product that would infringe upon their freedom of conscience of religious expression as stated in the 1st Amendment.” Taken at face value, this would mean a blanket religious exception for business of public accommodation to refuse service to anyone for religious reasons, including sexual orientation, race, and religion.

    LGBT rights: There has been a lot of coverage of the Texas Republican Party platform endorsing “reparative therapy,” a form of sham therapy that purports to be able to change a person’s sexual orientation and that medical professionals have dismissed as both ineffective and harmful. Munisteri said that he thinks most Republicans actually oppose it. “My mail from Republicans, my email my calls is running in favor of not having that language in there,” said Munisteri. “I think it’s fair to say in the least the party is divided on that and that it’s certainly a possibility that would not have been included in the platform had the overall convention had a chance to vote on it.”

    The platform also states that “Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that have been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nation’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle, in public policy, nor should family be redefined to include homosexual couples.” State recognition of same-sex marriage is also opposed. Even if “reparative therapy” weren’t in there, that hardly lays out the welcome mat for gay and lesbian conservatives.

    Immigration: Widely noted changes to the party platform take a harsher line on immigration in Texas, opposing any legal status for undocumented immigrants and demanding the repeal of in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Munisteri said the plank was in part a reaction to recent news of undocumented children seeking entry into the U.S. “The fear is that an incentive is being provided for people to come to Texas thinking if they are just able to get across the border and get here they’ll be provided with some benefits,” Munisteri said.

    United Nations: The Texas Republican Party platform calls for “the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations and the removal of United Nations headquarters from United States soil.”

    Confederate symbols: In 2000, liberal socialist Texas Governor George W. Bush had two Confederate plaques removed from the state courthouse, over the loud protests of groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Fourteen years later, the Texas Republican Party Platform demands the “restoration of plaques honoring the Confederate Widow’s Pension Fund contribution that were illegally removed from the Texas Supreme Court building.”

    Nullification: The Texas GOP platform’s plank on nullification, declaring the state should “nullify any federal mandated legislation which infringes upon the states’ 10th Amendment Right” is fairly typical of Republican rhetoric since Obama was elected, but it’s worth pointing out that not even the Heritage Foundation believes nullification is constitutional.

    How concerned should Texans be about the Republican party’s platform? It states that “Every Republican is responsible for implementing this platform.” Munisteri insisted that wasn’t binding.

    “That’s the view of the activist base, but that’s not necessarily the views of all Republicans,” Munisteri said. “It’s important for elected officials to know what’s on the mind of the activist base, but that doesn’t necessarily mean any of those or all of those will or will not be enacted by elected officials.” Not just elected officials.

    America Has Gained Almost 1 Million Healthcare Jobs Since Obamacare Was Passed


    Posted by: K.L. Nelson in Economics 101, Noteworthy News, Policy, Social Issues June 13, 2014

    Ask any Republican about the link between the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and job growth in America and they’ll tell you that Obamacare is ruining our economy and robbing good people of jobs. Of course, that just isn’t true. According to Forbes, studies show that in the healthcare industry alone, almost 1 million jobs have been created since Obamacare was passed into law.

    As the following chart shows, the numbers from the healthcare industry have been good for a while. In addition to recent growth, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the industry has been growing for 131 months in a row.

    Chart shows growth in healthcare jobs since Obamacare was passed. Image: Advisory.com.

    Whatever else they want to say about Obamacare, Republicans can no longer refer to it as a ‘job-killing healthcare law.’ This chart shows that America has gained nearly one million healthcare jobs since the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was passed. Image: Advisory.com.

    Job growth has not been limited to the healthcare industry. Since March 2010, more than 7 million jobs have been created in other areas with private sector employment showing gains for 51 straight months (Obamacare was passed 50 months ago).

    Whatever else they want to say about Obamacare, Republicans can no longer refer to it as “the job-killing healthcare law.” But then again, when have little things like the truth and facts had any effect on the GOP’s talking points?

    h/t: Forbes