New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) vetoed funding for women’s health clinics late last week, while signing into law much of the rest of the state’s budget. The women’s health bill would have provided $7.4 million to Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide cancer screenings, contraceptives, and preventative care. The funding was an effort by Democratic legislators to try to return women’s health spending to pre-Christie levels. None of the money would have gone toward funding abortions.
Marc Thiessen, the Bush Administration torture apologist turned Washington Post columnist, uses his column today to proclaim that Chief Justice Roberts was a failed nominee and Republicans need to ensure that future Robertses never reach the high Court again:
We don?t know if he was suddenly convinced by his liberal colleagues, or simply had a failure of nerve. But the challenge for conservatives is clear: We need jurists who not only have a philosophy of judicial restraint, but the intestinal fortitude not to be swayed by pressure from the New York Times, the Georgetown cocktail circuit and the legal academy.
Roberts?s defenders point to his many other conservative decisions and argue that he is not another David Souter or even another Anthony Kennedy. That may be true. But is that really the standard we want for a Supreme Court justice ? they are not another Souter or Kennedy? Shouldn?t conservatives expect Republican presidents to do better and appoint another Scalia, Thomas or Alito? That shouldn?t be too much to ask.
First of all, Thiessen can hardly claim to support judges who embrace “judicial restraint” when he is slamming Roberts for refusing to eradicate the entire Affordable Care Act, toss the entire national health system into chaos, and do so on a theory that rejects nearly 200 years of established law.
Moreover, President George W. Bush, who appointed Roberts in 2005, can hardly be blamed for not anticipating that conservatives in 2009 would suddenly decide that a policy proposal that was conceived at the conservative Heritage Foundation and signed into law by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would be declared a heresy simply because President Barack Obama embraced it. Indeed, Bush nominated Roberts to the Supreme Court less than two months after Justice Scalia published an opinion which establishes that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.
More recently, three leading conservative judges rejected the purely partisan argument that Obamacare violates the Constitution. Judge Laurence Silberman, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bush, upheld the law because the case against it ?cannot find real support . . . in either the text of the Constitution or Supreme Court precedent.? Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a former law clerk to Scalia who spent much of his pre-judicial career looking for ways to undermine federal power, nonetheless wrote his own opinion rejecting a challenge to the Affordable Care Act. And Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, one of the finalists for Roberts’ Supreme Court seat, called the case against health reform “a prescription for economic chaos that the framers, in a simpler time, had the good sense to head off.”
So believing that laws like Affordable Care Act are constitutional wasn’t just the mainstream view when Roberts joined the Court, it was the mainstream conservative view. Only a handful of radicals, such as Justice Clarence Thomas, would have rejected the Affordable Care Act if it had reached the Court in 2005.
But, of course, that is besides the point. The purpose of Thiessen’s column is not really to look back on a nomination that already happened, it is to send out a warning on judicial nominations yet to come. Ultimately, the intended audience for this column are the handful of conservative lawyers who will someday be entrusted with selecting nominees for a future Republican president. And the column’s message is clear: next time, pick someone who will follow conservative orthodoxy, regardless of what the Constitution actually says.
A top official overseeing the health of America’s lands is warning about the influence of a climate change on the intensity of wildfires.
With Colorado facing a severe drought, less summer snow pack, and a strong heat wave, the state is experiencing the most destructive wildfire in its history. Scientists are warning that human-caused warming will continue to fuel these factors, increasing the intensity and frequency of wildfires across the western U.S.
The last decade has already brought a major increase in wildfire activity. And Harris Sherman, the nation’s Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment, tells the Washington Post that climate change is contributing to the factors driving western fires:
?We?ve had record fires in 10 states in the last decade, most of them in the West,? said Agriculture Department Undersecretary Harris Sherman, who oversees the Forest Service. Over the past 10 years, the wildfire season that normally runs from June to September expanded to include May and October. Once, it was rare to see 5 million cumulative acres burn in a year, but some recent seasons have recorded twice that.
?The climate is changing, and these fires are a very strong indicator of that,? Sherman said.
Sherman’s comments reflect those made in recent weeks by officials responsible for managing the country’s natural resources. As Colorado and other Western states deal with a persistent drought, pest infestations, and a heat wave fanning the flames, talk of the connection to human-fueled warming has also increased. Speaking at symposium on fire preparedness last week, experts on forestry, water and energy policy all discussed the link between wildfire intensity and climate change. The Colorado Independent reported on the forum:
?If we accept that the world is changing ? this whole new normal [of global warming] ? why don?t we accept that we have to change?? said Jack Sahl, director of environment and resource sustainability for the Southern California Edison power utility. ?I think a lot of our urban and rural planning has just been goofy, and we have to find a way to rethink that.
?How many times do we have to have a flood, or how many times do you have to have a fire burn out a community or how many times do you have to have a hurricane take out a community before you say, ?There has to be a better way??”
Almost 1,000 homes have been destroyed by wildfires across the West. Last week, 32,000 people were evacuated due to threat from the Waldo Canyon Fire, which breached fire lines and burned out of control.
“We haven’t been at this demand in a long time, if ever,” said Jim Fletcher, coordinator of the U.S. Forest Service’s firefighting command center, speaking to the Los Angeles Times.
Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell told the U.S. Senate last year:
“Throughout the country, we’re seeing longer fire seasons, and we’re seeing snowpacks that, on average, are disappearing a little earlier every spring,” he said, as well as devastating droughts. As a result, fire seasons have lengthened by more than 30 days, on average.
“Our scientists believe this is due to a change in climate,” said Tidwell.
A federal judge has stopped the closure of the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, a sign of how the anti-choice movement has focused on access as much as the legality of abortion. Mississippi passed a law that would have closed this clinic,[...]
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As some of you know, there is far more to the Tibetan diaspora than the Dalai Lama. More than 200,000 refugees are living, sometimes stateless, in other countries. Tenzin Dorjee, whom I've mentioned here before, is the director of Students for a Free Tibet, and one of the next generation of Tibetan leaders in exile. Last week, he wrote at the Huffington Post about an incredibly moving art project, conceived after activist and artist Tenzing Rigdol's father died in exile longing to see his homeland one more time:
Rigdol was deeply affected by his father's untimely death, and devastated by his own helplessness in fulfilling his father's final wish. He could not stop agonizing over the idea that hundreds of other Tibetan exiles were going through the same denial of dignity, passing their final years in foreign lands....
Rigdol ... smuggled 20,000 kilograms of native Tibetan soil into India and laid it on a platform six feet high, creating an installation unprecedented in art history. For three days, people crowded on to the installation to see, smell and touch this piece of their long-lost homeland. Hundreds of children born in exile stepped on Tibetan soil for the first time in their lives, while scores of elders separated from Tibet in their youth set foot on the soil, possibly for the last time....
For thousands of Tibetans in the small hill town [Dharamsala] that has been the capital of Tibetan diaspora since 1959, the installation created three magical days of reunion under the beautiful, rainless October sky. A group of people and their lost homeland suddenly found each other. Elders prostrated on the soil, monks prayed on it, children played marbles in it, and musicians turned the installation into a concert stage. Art trumped reality. Rigdol had finally fulfilled his father's wish, a thousand times over.
On the morning of the final day, people were allowed to collect handfuls of soil to take home, in paper cups and improvised bags. In what turned into a genuinely interactive art performance, the soil disappeared over the next few hours, and the ground slowly became empty.
Tenzin Tsetan Choklay, whom Tenzin Dorjee calls one of the new wave of Tibetan filmmakers, captured the entire event?and has launched a Kickstarter project to turn it into a film. Go here to learn more.
Now that the Supreme Court has made it easier for states to choose not to take part in the Medicaid expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act, some Republican governors have already started seizing on this latitude. In just the few days since the[...]
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Recently, I found myself in a LEGO store. The reasons for my going to the store are not that interesting?suffice it to say, I needed a gift and scented candles would not be appreciated.
This was my first time in such a store, though I had loved LEGOs as a child. I remembered them as a sort of high-tech Lincoln Logs?inoffensive, brightly colored building bricks, with an occasional person to keep things interesting. On their face, they seemed genderless.
My first move was to head to the "Friends" section, to check out the brand's latest, controversial line. Apparently LEGO felt there was room for them in the Barbie and Bratz market. The first set I saw, Stephanie's Cool Convertible, features a curvy little blonde doll, complete with a miniskirt and pink bow, who rides in a purple convertible. A little dog in the back seat has a slew of pink grooming products, as well as its own matching pink bow. Using the convertible, girls can take other LEGO Friends "to the beauty shop, to the beach or go on a road trip with the girls!"
The line has prompted cries from parents and children against gender-based marketing. It was easy to see why people were upset. There were several of the themed products available at the store, and as one eager employee explained, others available online. Much of the line revolved around dogs, which came with the sets?there's a puppy house, a pet patrol, and even a Heartlake Dog Show you can get. I also discovered on LEGO's website you can even select the category "Girls" which includes, bizarrely, "Mia's Puppy House," "Emma's Splash House," and, for some reason, Big Ben and a Volkswagon Van.
But the Friends line, while depressing, was scarcely surprising. It's nothing new that girls are supposed to need different toys, more sexualized dolls. Not having much to go on (I just knew LEGOs would be a hit), I went over to the other end of the room, the one with safe primary colors and there settled on a little fellow in a speed boat.
The speed boat was part of LEGO City line, which seemed to include a startling number of options, including a prisoner transport unit and a mobile police unit.
The boat, however, seemed perfect. It was white and red with a little motor and the accompanying man's only accessories were a hat, a life-vest and some drawn-on sunglasses. He had a giant yellow head and a block-like body?everything one wants in a little Lego man.
Having avoided the weird, LEGO-Barbies and settled on a guy in a boat, I didn't foresee any other problems. A little while later, I proudly got out the gift and presented it to a rather young LEGO expert.
"Oh yeah, one of those oil guys," he said as he put together the little man.
Oil, what? Sure enough, when I got a good look, there on his vest said "OIL." Next to the word was a little circle, half red, half green. They'd been covered up by the damn life preserver I realized. Luckily, if you're interested in what the gas company logo of the LEGO world looks like, you can see it clearly here, in the gas station set for two to five-year olds. (If you want to see an exact replica, just check out the 4:10 minute mark on this adorable video of a kid reviewing his LEGO Oil Tanker.)
Turns out, the LEGO series I'd opted for, LEGO City, often comes with the oil insignia, my LEGO expert explained to me. Really?
I'm not sure when the oil industry became so ubiquitous that one would assume that a person on a speed boat worked for an oil company. At least the Friends came with puppies, rather than the implication of oil-soaked wildlife. In some ways, the LEGO City line was more distressing. Between police units and oil-workers, it seemed intent to let kids know the order of things?who has power and who does not. People who work for oil companies drive speedboats, while police catch criminals who are guilty by looks alone. It's not exactly a pretty picture to contemplate. Toy-shopping, as many parents will tell you, can be a minefield.
Personally, I'm thinking that next time I'll try for the Lincoln Logs?assuming, at this point, they haven't been bought out by Halliburton.
Here's the chart of the day from the Kaiser Family Foundation:
This poll fielded following the Supreme Court?s decision upholding the heart of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) finds a majority of Americans (56 percent) now say they would like to see the law?s detractors stop their efforts to block its implementation and move on to other national problems.Repeal of the Affordable Care Act is the hill Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell and House Republicans have decided to fight on. With more than two-thirds of Republicans behind them at the moment, maybe that makes sense.
Democrats overwhelmingly say opponents should move on to other issues (82 percent), as do half (51 percent) of independents and a quarter (26 percent) of Republicans. But, seven in ten Republicans (69 percent) say they want to see efforts to stop the law continue, a view shared by 41 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats.
But, a good chunk of Republicans are not behind them. They can't win this election with only Republican votes. Half of independents are saying, "enough already, you lost." As we get further from the ruling and people refocus on the economy and jobs, expect to see growth in the numbers of both independents and Republicans who think it's time to move on.
Keeping the repeal battle going could be the hill Republicans die on in November.
Rock Hill, SC ? Joyce Knott, candidate for Congress from the Fifth Congressional District offered this response to the Supreme Court?s ruling on the Affordable Healthcare Act, ?Today is a great day for the American people. The decision to uphold and make clear to the citizens that health care should be available and affordable is a relief to families and individuals across our country.
Young adults can stay on their parents? policies until the age of 26, you cannot lose your coverage if you get sick, and a pre-existing condition cannot keep you from getting affordable health care. Those in Medicare Part D ?doughnut hole? get discounts on their prescription drugs. New health plans must offer preventive services and screenings. These are a few of the ways that will help the middle class cope with some of their cost.
Insurance companies can no longer pick and choose who they want to insure. They now can have certainty about the new laws and will work to develop their policies to fit the bill. Now that it is settled law, that everyone should pay their fair share, and that we have individual rights to affordable health care, we are fortunate that President Obama and the Congressional Democrats had the strength and courage to fight the good fight. This is a step forward and not backward. Let?s continue moving our country on the path that we are on. The Supreme Court affirmed today that progress can continue being made for the Middle Class and for every American across our nation.?
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“The governor disagreed with the ruling of the court,” Fehrnstrom said. “He agreed with the dissent that was written by Justice [Antonin] Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax.” – [Politico]
ETCH A SKETCH Romney man and senior advisor, gaffeman extraordinaire Eric Ferhnstrom, has done it again. If this guy was a woman he’d be looking for a new line of work. In an interview with Chuck Todd today, he walked away from the “tax” argument given to Team Romney by Chief Justice Roberts. Instead, he extolled the consistency of former Gov. Romney, once again blowing the message Republicans and the right want to use to bludgeon Team Obama.
So, if you’re keeping score, Chief Justice Roberts sides with the majority, the liberals, on the Supreme Court, upholding Obamacare, while stating it’s not the Court’s job to adjudicate between a law written by the legislative branch and politicians put there by the people, but at the same time hemming in Congress through his denouncement against the Commerce Clause as a valid vehicle, citing tax to validate Obamacare constitutionality.
Republicans freak, flop around rhetorically, then regroup and get exercised about having the tax issue from Roberts, calling it the “largest middle class tax increase in U.S. history,” which came after Rush Limbaugh’s “the biggest tax increase in the history of the world,” the premise such a deliciously easy canard to prove false.
Meanwhile, right on cue, Democrats get defensive over the tax issue, as they always do in the Obama era.
Then today, in another general election gift to rival Etch a Sketch but will be remembered a lot longer, Mitt Romney’s top advisor gives Democrats the nod against Republicans working against Obama.
Not even Aaron Sorkin could have scripted this one.
It doesn’t matter if you call it a tax, as Chief Justice Roberts decreed in his political opinion, or a “penalty,” as former Gov. Romney and Pres. Obama both prefer. Insisting all Americans pay for health insurance in some form is the crux of it.
We the People are in this together and if you want to use the capitalistic services of the health care industry, in all its bloated fee glory, which we each will at some point in our lives (see Justice Ginsburg’s opinion), then you’ll have to pay for it. Most people already do through their employers in some form, so most won’t be impacted at all from the tax/penalty.
Bottom line: no free-loaders.
That used to be a conservative notion, but today Republicans are so far right it isn’t, and where they once stood Democrats have taken up court.