Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a controversial “fetal pain” bill into law yesterday, which bans most abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions to save the life of the mother and if the fetus has extreme defects that make survival unlikely. The bill has no exception for rape or incest. Lawmakers based the legislation on the widely disputed claim that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks gestation, and Georgia is the seventh state to approve such a law. State laws already prevented most abortions in the third trimester. Deal argued the new law added “humane protection to innocents capable of feeling pain,” but Planned Parenthood officials said it would limit women’s access to health care.
When Luck was cancelled in March, I wrote that it would be nice if we could get as upset about the health and safety of reality show participants as we do about animal cruelty on set. The New York Times has a disturbing new report about the state of horse racing in New York state that serves as an upsetting reminder that there are people inside the industry who don’t care very much about the fate of the animals they’re entertained by and make a great deal of money by racing even when it’s clear that their bodies are broken, the rot at the snapping point disguised by drugs:
?The horses go perfectly sound right up to the second they snap their leg off,? Mr. Clifton said. The following day he came back with a warning: ?If we have one more horse break down, we are going to have a major problem on our hands.? That night, riding in the fifth race, Mr. Clifton heard a bone snap and saw another jockey, Ricky Frazier, vaulting off a horse named Laughing Moon. Mr. Clifton yanked his own mount, but they still went soaring over Laughing Moon. Within minutes, Mr. Frazier was in an ambulance and a veterinarian was administering a lethal injection to Laughing Moon, the ninth Gill horse to die racing in 10 months.
That is when the jockeys decided to take a stand: They would not ride in any race with a Gill-owned horse. Their boycott cast a harsh light on the Pennsylvania Racing Commission and Penn National Gaming, which owns the track.
?It wasn?t the commission or the racetrack or anyone with any responsibility for horses and riders who took action,? said George Strawbridge, a prominent breeder and owner. ?It was the jockeys who feared for their life. That?s not a shame. That?s a disgrace.?
The fact that inspections of horses at the track before they race aren’t standard from state to state, giving owners like Michael Gill, the one described in those paragraphs, the ability to essentially go shopping for venues where they can race unhealthy horses, is deeply upsetting. I’m not saying horse racing needs to be federally regulated. But it’s hard to believe that track owners and racing commissions couldn’t come to relatively standard conclusions about the desirability of keeping horses from getting unrepairably injured on the track if only in the interests of keeping jockeys safe. And anyone who thinks watching animals hurt themselves dreadfully is part of the entertainment might want to take a careful look at themselves.
A brief history of unions -- is the move by Workers' Voice the next big step in the evolution of unions?
In an unprecedented move, Workers' Voice?the super PAC of the AFL-CIO, has given control of its $4.1 million in campaign funds to its members, both union and non-union. The move is being done to incentivize members to take more of a stake in the organization and boost participation in an important election year.
Members of the organization who take part in campaign-related activities will be rewarded with currency within the organization and that currency can be used to determine which campaigns the super PACs literal money funds and how it is used. The more phone banking, canvassing and volunteering members do, the more currency they can earn. The money can be directed to online advertising, voter registration, GOTV and other operations. The final details of the program are being worked out, but it could have a big impact on 2012 elections.
"We are kind of jumping off a cliff and opening ourselves up to democracy. We are going to empower people and empower workers in a way that's not been done before," said Workers' Voice spokesman Eddie Vale. "There may be a congressional race that isn't much on people's radar in D.C. But if there are a hundred activists in that congressional district who get their asses out of bed every morning and make phone calls and knock on doors, we feel they have earned the right to put [our] resources there."
"If you wanted to make a $50,000 contribution to drive X number of phone calls on behalf of a candidate you like or against a candidate that you hate, you can do that," said Vale. "This is a new incentive model that no one has every tried. I think we have a real shot at doing something unique and meaningful here."
"Nothing even close to this has been done before," said Vale. "Nothing like this has been done in politics that I know of."
If successful, it is not difficult to see the program being replicated elsewhere and could spur activism and give a boost to more grassroots candidates, the kinds of candidates that are often ignored by the party and interest group apparatus in D.C.
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Lawrence O'Donnell took a look back at the presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich during his Rewrite segment now that he's finally going to officially drop out of the race and noted that "Newt is now the first, and no doubt the last historian to refer to the Gingrich presidential campaign as 'a terrific campaign.'"
I guess this means Gingrich is going to quit bilking the taxpayers out of their money to pay for his Secret Service protection. He'll have to finish his book tour without it.
The latest in Newt Gingrich?s drawn-out exit from the Republican presidential primary is a goodbye video titled, ?Thank You To All Of Our Supporters.? Though news that Gingrich will drop out of the race is almost a week old, Gingrich says in the video that he wants to give his supporters ?insider advance notice? that he will be suspending his campaign on Wednesday.
Gingrich calls his suporters ?vital? and tells them, ?we?re going to continue out there on the road, both Callista and I will be talking, campaigning, making speeches, doing everything we can to help defeat Barack Obama.?
Gingrich will officially announce the suspension of his campaign Wednesday in Virginia.
In today?s New York Times, David Brooks writes that?for him?most presidential campaigns are some combination of reality show, romantic courtship, and a straightforward job application. This year, however, is different. Rather than try to appeal to the best of the public, Brooks says that both Romney and Obama have gone for the jugular in a ruthless effort to destroy each other. It suffices to say that the Times columnist is very disappointed in this development:
[B]oth President Obama and Mitt Romney seem more passionate about denying the other side victory than about any plank in their own agendas. Both campaigns have developed contempt for their opponent, justifying their belief that everything, then, is permitted.
In both campaigns, you can see the war-room mentality developing early. Attention spans shrink to a point. Gone is much awareness of the world outside the campaign. All focus is on the news blip of the moment ? answering volley for volley. If they bring a knife, you bring a gun. If they throw a bomb, you throw two.
Brooks uses a bit of false equivalence to make his point?a blatantly dishonest Romney advertisement isn?t the same as a tough shot from the Obama team?but on the main, he?s right. The campaigns have been relentlessly negative, and with hundreds of millions going into this race from both sides, we can only expect it to get worse.
But it?s one thing to say that this year is more negative than usual; it?s something else to present the 2012 election as sui generis in its negativity. Opinions differ, of course, but so far, I don?t think we?ve seen anything as negative as the ?Wolves? ad from George W. Bush?s 2004 re-election campaign, or the ?Revolving Door? ad from George H.W. Bush?s 1988 bid for the White House. Indeed, as far as presidential elections are concerned, there?s nothing in the last thirty years that compares to LBJ?s ?Daisy? ad against Barry Goldwater, where he attack the Arizona Republican as a trigger-happy nuclear warmonger.
Even in pre-television age, presidential campaigns were vicious. In the 1884 election, Grover Cleveland was hounded by Republican opponents for allegedly fathering an illegitimate child??Ma, Ma, Where?s My Pa?? was the preferred slogan. On the other side, a representative for Republican nominee James Blaine decried the Democratic Party as one of ?Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion.? The appeal was easily grasped by voters of the time?Democrats are traitors who brought you drunkenness and Catholicism.
The list goes on; Abraham Lincoln was mocked as ?Ignoramus Abe,? Martin van Buren was accused of wasting taxpayer dollars and living in ?regal splendor? while in the White House, and Andrew Jackson was portrayed as a bloodthirsty executioner. The mild criticisms of Ann Romney pale in comparison to the attacks lobbed at Rachel Jackson, the second wife of then-General Jackson??Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband to be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?? asked one anti-Jackson editorial.
Not even the Founding Fathers were immune to negative campaigning. In the 1800 campaign between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both sides fought deep in the mud. Jeffersonians attacked Adams for his weight and appearance??His Rotundity??while Adams? supporters accused Jefferson of being a Jacobin, and warned that if elected, ?Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will all be openly taught.? I can only imagine how David Brooks would react if that accusation were in an Obama advertisement.
Negative campaigning has a long and storied history in American politics, for the simple reason that it works. It informs, it motivates, and it mobilizes. Indeed, I?m not sure that you can have mass democracy without negative campaigning. And while it may have gotten a little more fierce in the 21st century, the game is still largely the same.
The decision broke with a policy that Israel has held for 20 years: no new settlements will be established. Right-wing Israeli governments, in particular, have broadcast that policy as part of their international PR efforts. Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his most senior ministers granted official approval last week to three West Bank settlements. No big deal, say government spokesmen.
"This is only a technical matter," Netanyahu's staffers told U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro, the Daily Ma'ariv reported on Sunday. There's actually a measure of truth in that claim?but that dollop of truth is an indictment of 20 years of settlement policy.
The settlements of Rehelim, Brukhin, and Sansanah already exist. They are just three of the settlements erected over the last two decades with the government's aid and abetment. The ministerial decision merely relabels a rogue operation as an official action. If hypocrisy is tribute that vice pays to virtue, this is the moment when vice stops coughing up the tribute. Or, in diplomatic terms, it is the moment when the client state decides that it no longer needs to pay any attention to the preferences of its patron in Washington.
The freeze on new settlements dates to 1992, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin began seeking a peace agreement with the Palestinians. In 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu's first government officially lifted the freeze, but retained a requirement that the cabinet had to approve any new Israeli community in the West Bank. Such approval hasn't been granted. Even right-wing governments have wanted to avoid a firestorm of foreign criticism.
Yet the freeze on new settlements has always been a remarkably unconvincing act of public relations. For one thing, existing settlements have kept growing rapidly. According to official figures, 116,000 Israelis lived in the Gaza Strip and West Bank at the end of 1992. By 2010, after the evacuation of the Gaza Strip settlements, there were 311,000 Israelis in the West Bank. Some settlements grew from villages to large towns in that time. The official statistics don't include Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, but the Jewish population there has grown from roughly 150,000 in the mid-1990s to nearly 190,000 today.
Besides that, about 100 new settlements have, in fact, been established in the West Bank. Often consisting of a few mobile homes, they're known as "outposts." Put aside the question of whether settlement in occupied territory is legal under international law. The outposts are illegal under the laws that Israel itself uses to rule the West Bank. They lack cabinet approval and building permits. Some are built on privately owned Palestinian land. But once you're breaking the law, why worry about property rights?
Superficially, outpost-building is a wildcat effort by settler radicals. But as a 2005 study by attorney Talia Sasson showed, government agencies have not only ignored the lawbreaking, they helped build the outposts. The Housing Ministry spent millions of dollars on the effort. Sasson implicated officials including Netanyahu's chief of staff during his first term, Avigdor Lieberman?today Israel's foreign minister. Though Sasson's report doesn't mention Ariel Sharon's role, settlers' testimony?to me and other journalists?indicates that as a cabinet member and then prime minister, Sharon oversaw the entire effort. The location of the outposts?filling in gaps between older settlements and separating Palestinian communities?fits Sharon's strategy for blocking creation of a contiguous Palestinian state.
Eventually, the fašade of law and policy began to crack. Sharon himself commissioned Sasson's report, apparently because George W. Bush's 2003 "road map" for Israeli-Palestinian peace required Israel to evacuate outposts established after Sharon became prime minister in 2001 and Sharon needed to provide a list. Sasson was formerly a top government lawyer. Sharon presumably expected her to provide a fig leaf rather than an indictment. Sharon also sought to negotiate an understanding with Washington that Israel could keep building homes within the built-up areas of existing settlements. To create a data base of those areas, the government commissioned retired general Baruch Spiegel. Spiegel, too, was more conscientious than expected. His report details which parts of outposts and older settlements were built on stolen land. Nothing can be more of a nuisance to a rogue op than public officials who believe in upholding the law.
Meanwhile, Israeli activists and Palestinian landowners began filing suits against illegal building in settlements, a strategy pioneered by land-use expert Dror Etkes. Attorneys representing the government have repeatedly admitted that construction was illegal while trying to delay demolishing anything.
Netanyahu finally faced a choice: He could keep his foreign-policy commitments and uphold the law, or accede to pressure from settlers and their backers in his party to protect and expand settlement. With early elections expected this year in Israel, he has decided to play to the base. Rehelim, Brukhin, and Sansanah are three of the 17 outposts now tied up in court cases. It's not clear yet whether the government will legalize them by approving them as new settlements or by claiming that they are neighborhoods of existing ones. That, after all, is a "technical matter." The reality is that the government has admitted that the three settlements exist with government support and approval, and it will now build more houses in each.
Asked about the Israeli move, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, "We don?t think this is helpful ? and we don?t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity." That's not exactly an announcement of a crisis in Israel-U.S. relations, but then it's also an election year in America. "Why does the dog wag its tail? Because the dog is smarter than the tail. If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog." So begins the movie Wag the Dog. Right now Netanyahu seems confident he can wag Washington as he pleases.
Cross posted from The Stars Hollow GazetteMay Day may be a day for workers to take to the streets and protest oppression but for Pagans and Wiccans around the world it is one of the eight sabbats of the Wheel. It is a celebration of fertility and[...]
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Stop sweating, Mitt: It's a simple question. Paycheck Fairness, yes or no? (Jim Young/Reuters)
Senate Democrats are trying to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, to take the next big step past the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Senate Republicans blocked it in 2010 despite a 58-vote majority in favor at the time. What could make congressional Republicans change their mind? Well, there's this little thing called a presidential election, and their party's presumptive nominee has said that he is favor of pay equity?in principle.
If Mitt Romney said he supported the Paycheck Fairness Act, might that flip some Republican votes? Greg Sargent argues that it might, and it would certainly put Republicans who care about winning the presidency in a tough spot if Romney embraced fair pay as a way to make the case to women that he would represent them and their economic concerns. But I'm with DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz: It's not going to happen.
?It speaks volumes that Romney can?t say whether or not he would have signed [Lily Ledbetter] into law,? Wasserman Schultz said on the call. ?And so I feel quite certain that he also opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act.?Republicans blocked this law once, and Mitt Romney?he's a Republican. And he's no kind of leader. Not only does he not want to see women have a better chance at fair pay, he would never take the political risk of trying to get Senate Republicans to do something they don't want to do.
?That bill is not law, because Republicans blocked it,? she continued. ?Republicans have absolutely no interest in ensuring pay equity in this country ... Romney would turn back the clock and leave us stagnant and stifled.?
But if Romney is going to go around the country making claims about Barack Obama having been bad for women economically, he really needs to tell us where he stands on this. Pay equity in principle is all very well, but where does Mitt Romney stand when it comes to making the principle reality? Does he stand with women and against discrimination, or does he stand with employers looking to save a buck by discriminating against women and with Senate Republicans fighting the War on Women?
President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan yesterday, ostensibly to sign a new agreement with the leader the US helped install in a country US armed forces have occupied for over ten years. Mitt Romney got to watch on television, while[...]
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As you may have heard through the din of President Obama's trip to Afghanistan, yesterday afternoon Richard Grenell, Mitt Romney's newly-hired foreign policy spokesman, resigned from the campaign.
The thing that made Grenell's resignation notable is that he is gay?and his hiring prompted a furious backlash from the homophobic right, which declared victory upon his departure. The Romney campaign strenuously denies that it wanted Grenell to quit, but it's clear that they refused to publicly defend him from the right-wing bullying, and based on this report from Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman, Grenell believes he was hung out to dry:
But Christian Whiton, who served in the Bush State Department as a political appointee and spoke with Grenell on Tuesday, told POLITICO: ?Basically, Ric got Etch-A-Sketched.?Whiton was not alone in his concern?Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer also questioned Romneyland for keeping Grenell under wraps, telling Greg Sargent that "nobody understands" why Grenell was prevented from doing his job.
?I gathered Ric was frustrated that Team Romney wouldn?t aggressively engage Obama on foreign policy. Ric was kept from talking to the press as a spokesman typically would. They seem to have decided to concede foreign policy to Obama, and therefore didn?t need an aggressive spokesman,? said Whiton, a former Newt Gingrich adviser who described Grenell as a ?friend.?
?This confirms the worst of what people think of team Romney. It seems in retrospect like Grenell was hired to check some diversity box, but was then kept in the closet because others were offended,? said Whiton. ?It?s very strange that foreign policy strategy and related issues were not run to ground before Ric was hired. It?s frankly incompetent management.?
Maybe Fleischer really doesn't understand, but I'm not buying it. He's been around long enough to know how deeply in bed the Republican Party is with the intolerant right. And if he honestly expected Mitt Romney to have the courage to stand up for Grenell when it was politically inconvenient ... well, then that's something that I truly don't understand.