After weeks of discussion on a bill that would restrict students from talking about their sexuality in Missouri public schools, Republican state lawmaker Zach Wyatt decided he'd had enough. While it's virtually impossible for the bill to pass through the General Assembly at this point, Wyatt nonetheless called a press conference. He lambasted the bill?and then came out as gay.
His hometown newspaper, The Kirksville Daily Express covered the event, in which Wyatt introduced himself as "a proud Republican, a proud veteran and a proud gay man who wants to protect all kids." He didn't hold back in his comments:
'I will not lie to myself anymore about my own sexuality. It has probably been the hardest thing to come to terms with. I have always ignored it. I didn?t even think about it or want to talk about it. I?ve not been immune to it. I hear the comments, usually snide ones, about me,' Wyatt said.
'I am not the first or last Republican to come out. I have just gotten tired of the bigotry being shown on both sides of the aisle on gay issues. Being gay has never been a Republican or Democrat issue, and it should never be.'
Wyatt hasn't always been so forthright. He voted against a non-discrimination bill last year and in the past has towed his party's line when it came to school bullying. But the latest bill, evidently, just went too far. Sponsored by Representative Steve Cookson, the bill would limit any discussion of sexual orientation to "scientific instruction concerning human reproduction." That means no gay-straight alliance clubs, no mention of sexuality in classes like history or literature, and most disturbingly, students might not be able to talk to teachers about homophobic bullying, leaving educators unable to address what we know is a rampant problem for gay youth. According to The Riverfront Times, there's been widespread outcry from educators and healthcare workers about the hazards of such a measure. The bill has almost no chance of passing at this point. But is has been widely mocked since Stephen Colbert observed it would make Missouri the "Don't Show Me" state.
Monday, Cookson's in-depth interview with alternative SEMO Times's managing editor Tim Krakowiak drew more attention to the measure. In the interview, Cookson explains that "My personal belief is, yes, it is a sin being homosexual." He also details his concern that tax dollars are going towards the gay agenda, as it were:
Krakowiak: How are our tax dollars being spent, as you said, to promote political agendas of a sexual nature? How is this happening in schools? Cookson: OK. Evidently, they say there are 80 school sponsored gay-straight alliances. There are 80 of those that are school sponsored?is the way I understand it?across the state. So those are some tax dollars. There are, I have heard, maybe a handful of schools that have curriculums that include sexual orientation such as things like, you know, it?s alright to have two moms. It?s alright for children to have two dads.I?m not against people that want to have that lifestyle. I just don?t know if we want? the one thing that is for sure is that these people that live these other lifestyles, they are not reproducing. They are not reproducing. And I think that there are some people that believe?and I want to say some people? it has been brought to my attention that they believe that they are using this, since they can?t reproduce, to recruit people into that lifestyle.
Wyatt, a 27 year-old cattle rancher from a rural part of the state, has already announced he won't be running for re-election and instead will head to the University of Hawaii to study marine biology. Meanwhile, Cookson hopes to be around next year and see where his bill can go.
Miriam Jordan at The Wall Street Journal has published an investigative article about adoption from Ethiopia, which has for several years been riddled with allegations of fraud and unethical practices. This article tells the deceptively simple story of Melesech Roth, whose Ethiopian birthmother died of malaria, and whose birthfather (who lives in stone-age poverty) gave her up for adoption when someone came through his village, offering to take children to America who would later help support their families. The writing is so straightforward that you may not realize how extraordinary it is unless you've tried to write a similar piece. Persuading an adoptive family to talk with you on the record, and also finding the biological family and getting them to talk on the record, is a significant feat.
The accompanying ten-minute video is even more powerful than the written story. You can see for yourself that Melesech, by any material measure, is far better off than her siblings, who are pounding grain and building fires in the dirt-floor, mud-walled hut where they live alongside their chickens. But you also see her biological father's face and hearing his voice as he explains that of course he did not give away his child forever; she will support him and come back again. In fact, he says, at around 7:15 into the video, he's thinking of giving up more children because he's still poor:
I will be giving up the children but not to become someone else's child. It's to help me. Not to become someone else's child. What good would that be to me if I give them away?
Here is the dilemma of international adoption in a nutshell. Melesech has a life that, to American eyes, looks far better than the life she had at home. The Roths clearly love her, and adopted her for the right reasons: they wanted to help needy orphans who had no family and no home. They chose one of the most upstanding and reputable adoption agencies, one of the three biggest players in the field: Children's Home Society & Family Services, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, which says that it doesn't pay its orphanages per child, but rather supports them unconditionally, no matter how many children are actually adoptable.
And yet when absurdly large amounts of money are exchanged between a wealthy country and a devastatingly poor country, here's what happens: unscrupulous middlemen scour the countryside and defraud poor families out of their children. Melesech clearly had a family. She was not an orphan (except by UNICEF's oddly expansive definition, which counts as an orphan any child who has lost either parent, even if that child is still living with the other parent). Some adoption solicitor either actively misled Melesech's father, or passively accepted the fact that the man was unable to comprehend the foreign concepts behind Western adoption, with its extremely counterintuitive idea of permanently severing family ties. Melesech's father's experience with child exchange would have been like that of most traditional cultures; he would be familiar with the model in which families send their children to live with richer families so that those children can later come home to help their birthfamilies. Poor nations often live on remittances. Promising family members are sent abroad on the understanding that that relative will send money back to help support the rest of the family.
Melesech's father's expectation was entirely reasonable. So was the Roths' expectation that they were saving a poor child whose family could no longer raise her, as that's the myth that gets perpetuated in the U.S.: the myth that there are millions of healthy orphans under age five who need new homes. Someone profited by exploiting the mismatch between the two.
Ethiopia's adoption program has had some serious scandals over the past few years. About a year and a half ago, I met and spoke with a minister from its Ministry of Women, Children, and Families, who seemed dedicated to cleaning the program up?but the minister may not have had enough internal support to overcome whatever profiteering or bribes might be circulating in the system. Similar things have happened in a series of countries, recently including Cambodia, Vietnam, Nepal, and most notoriously, Guatemala.
I reported on the problems in international adoption for several years, in a series of articles in publications that included Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, Democracy Journal, and Slate. (You can read more about particular countries' adoption programs here.)
While Melesech's life is materially better, her adoption has not helped those left behind. Her birth family is still, quite literally, dirt poor. So is her country. Other parents are still at risk for dying of malaria, dysentery, and other preventable and treatable illnesses. What Ethiopians really need is a government that is not strangling its development, and forms of aid that actually reach and help individual families. Failing that, is it right to spirit some of their children away?
Here's the rule of thumb: If you can get a healthy infant or toddler within a year, don't adopt from that country. Adopt, instead, from American foster care, or from countries that send abroad very few children, and when they do, the children who are available are older, or disabled, or come in sibling groups, or otherwise have had trouble finding new local homes. Or if you're adopting for humanitarian reasons, donate that money an organization that helps children stay with their families, or brings clean water and mosquito nets and medicines to their villages.
It's far more rewarding to love an individual child than to give to anonymous foreigners. I know; I'm parenting an adopted child. But no one wants to be complicit, even unknowingly, in defrauding a father out of his daughter.
Imagine that you called a carpenter to come repair your deck, and after looking at the rotted timbers and split rails, he said, "Well, I can fix this deck. But the one thing I'm not going to do is come over here and engage in a bunch of carpentry. That would be wrong."
You'd probably suspect that the carpenter was insane. Yet politicians and their campaign advisers?people for whom politics is a profession no less than carpentry is the carpenter's profession?are constantly complaining that their opponents are engaged in "politics," or are committing the horrible sin of "politicizing" something that shouldn't be political.
So it was when Barack Obama's re-election campaign took the opportunity of the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama Bin Laden to remind voters who was president when it happened, in the form of an ad retelling the story and questioning whether Mitt Romney would have made the same decision as Obama did were he in the Oval Office at the time. The condemnations came from the expected places, and even one or two unexpected places (Arianna Huffington called the ad "one of the most despicable things you can do"). No one said that the Obama campaign was lying about anything, or raising an issue that ought to be irrelevant to a presidential campaign. The only problem seemed to be that an incumbent president was taking political advantage of the purest moment of triumph in his first term to argue that the voters ought to grant him a second. Shocking. Surely Republicans would never stoop so low.
Romney protested that "of course" he would have ordered the raid that killed Bin Laden, but the truth is we don't really know whether he would have. And that's precisely why we ought to have these discussions. There are things about a presidency we can predict well, and things we can't. For instance, when Barack Obama ran for president, he said he wanted a comprehensive health care reform, and when he took office, he pursued it in largely (but not exactly) the same form he had advocated during the campaign. Mitt Romney says he wants to cut taxes, and we can be pretty sure if he wins office, he'll try to cut taxes. Presidents keep the overwhelming majority of the promises they make as candidates, so the best way to predict what they'll do in office is to look at what they propose during the campaign.
But foreign policy, particularly in matters of war, is very different. Legislation, where you follow a precise (if often maddening) course from bill to law, is all but irrelevant. You have to respond to events that can't be foreseen, involving people and forces from other nations that are often difficult to understand and even harder to predict. So when we're trying to determine what kind of actions a potential president would or wouldn't take in foreign policy, we have to piece together a picture from an inconclusive jumble of statements, experiences, and character traits. Each might give us some hint of how the next president will deal with changing and dangerous situations throughout the world, but no combination will make us certain we know what this candidate would do.
And when it comes to crisis situations like the Bin Laden raid, we have even less to go on. Mitt Romney has been a corporate leader and a governor, but he's never been in a situation where he had a short amount of time to make a decision that could potentially result in the deaths of many people and a national humiliation, or an extraordinary and lasting triumph. Barack Obama had never been in that situation before becoming president either. The last president who had that kind of experience before coming to the White House was Dwight Eisenhower.
At the moment, we're arguing about something that has already happened, not something that might happen in the future, which if nothing else takes fear out of the equation (to a degree, at least). That's in stark contrast to 2004, when Republicans literally argued that if John Kerry were elected, terrorists would kill us. ("It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, " said Dick Cheney on the campaign trail, "because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.") But that also means that the discussion we have about the Bin Laden killing is a few steps removed from whatever crisis the president will face in 2013 or 2014, and how he'll approach the life-or-death decision he has to make.
And there will be such a crisis; we just don't know what it will involve. As Barack Obama has pointed out repeatedly, the president doesn't have to make the easy decisions; those are handled at the staff level. It's the complicated, uncertain, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't decisions that reach the Oval Office. "Politics" is the only means we have to assess what each of these two men will bring to that moment when it comes. It might not be a particularly good guide, but it's all we've got.
In the past month Mitt Romney has significantly gained on President Obama in several key swing states, according to Quinnipiac polling. Currently Obama has the lead in Pennsylvania but is effectively tied with Romney in both Florida and Ohio.[...]
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Pssssst. Michele. No one cares, honey. You're kind of, well, irrelevant. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)Today, Rep. Michele "Batshit Crazy" Bachmann is expected to add her name to the list of Republicans who hate Mitt Romney but now must beg their fellow Republicans to vote for him anyway because all the other contenders (including Rep. Batshit Crazy) were so much worse.
According to Bachmann?s former campaign manager, Keith Nahigian, Bachmann will pretend she didn't spend her days as a wannabe presidential candidate beating up Mitt Romney for being a flip-flopping, abortion-loving, socialized medicine-promoting moderate who?shudder! gasp! hide the children!?cooperates with Democrats:
Nahigian insists the endorsement is outside the realm of politics, pointing to a friendship that developed between the two candidates last fall.Suuuuuuuuuure. They're best pals. So much in common. He likes to tear down mansions to build bigger mansions, and she gets pouty when she loses fights with the voices in her head. Two peas in a pod.
?She really liked Romney during all the debates. Really liked him behind the stage, behind the scenes,? Nahigian said. ?He was so polite to her every time they saw each other.?
The real reason Michele is offering up her sweet, sweet endorsement, however, comes straight from Michele:
?He cannot beat Obama,? Bachmann said. ?It?s not going to happen.?Oh, sorry, that was what she said before she dropped out of the race. Here's what she's saying now:
?I want my voice to be one of uniting our party, the independents, the mainstream, the conservatives, evangelicals, the Tea Party movement,? she said during a recent appearance on NBC?s ?Meet the Press.?"See that? That's Michele deluding herself about her own significance, as if she alone has the power to unite a party that was willing to dump her by the side of the road just because Rick Perry came a-struttin' through Iowa. And as for that tea party "movement" of which Michele imagines herself queen? She couldn't even get the tea party to give an eighth of a crap about her while she was running, since they were only willing to "support" her without "endorsing" her:
?I?m waiting,? Bachmann said, ?for our party to come together and help in that process.?
Tea Party Express will "support" Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign for president, the group announced Monday. But that's not a full-fledged endorsement, the national Tea Party organization clarified.That support-but-not-endorsement from the Tea Party Express was actually generous, though, compared with the sentiments of other tea party factions:
And earlier this year, another Tea Party group, American Majority, called on Bachmann to quit the race and open up breathing space for what they described as more viable Republican presidential candidates.But now Michele is going to bring the full force of her, uh, "popularity" with the tea party to help unite Republicans behind Mitt? Suuuuuuuuuure.
The McCain camp was forced to fight off an insurrection on the 2008 convention floor from delegates supporting Ron Paul in what was at the time a very underreported story. It looks like the Paulites are burrowing themselves in deeply this time around,[...]
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Paul Krugman on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI): "All he does is make scary noises about the deficit, with mood music, with organ music in the background about how ominous it is, and then propose a plan that would in fact increase the deficit."[...]
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TPM's Nick Martin has been writing off and on for years about J.T. Ready, the white supremacist border vigilante who allegedly took his own life Wednesday after a shooting rampage in a suburban home outside of Phoenix that left four others dead. Here's[...]
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Behind the scenes photos from President Obama's unannounced trip to Afghanistan. [...]
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For Rupert Murdoch's and News Corp, this slow drip of regular bad news has to be nerve racking. For most organizations and individuals, when you have bad news you want to get it all out as quickly as possible and move on. The pace may be frustrating for those who dislike Murdoch and News Corp, but the slow drip of bad news really is painful not to mention damaging for them. Rushing the process before all of the details are available could end up helping News Corp.
What surprises are going to emerge next in the ongoing News Corp scandal? More from The Guardian on Senator Rockefeller's request for information.
"I would like to know whether any of the evidence you are reviewing suggests that these unethical and sometimes illegal business practices occurred in the United States or involved US citizens," Rockefeller writes in a letter released on Wednesday.
The development adds to the potential dangers facing News Corp, a publicly-traded company with its headquarters in New York. Rockefeller has taken a close interest in the unfolding phone-hacking saga, but it is the first time that a Senate committee member has acted in his official capacity.
Should the committee decide to press its case, it has considerable powers at its disposal. It could convene official Senate hearings into the scandal and subpoena witnesses and documents from News Corp ? though as yet there is no discussion of doing so.