Maggie Gallagher, the co-founder of the anti-gay marriage group National Organization for Marriage, is defending the priest who denied communion to a grieving woman at her mother’s funeral because she is a lesbian. Gallagher also took a swipe at the woman, Barbara Johnson, and the entire LGBT community: ?The time to confess your sin to a priest is in the confessional, whose doors are always open, and not a few minutes before the Mass starts,? writes Gallagher over at the National Review. This outburst is just the latest in Gallagher’s long history of anti-gay rhetoric.
Last week, the Supreme Court heard the “mother of all corporate immunity” cases, a case that literally presents the question of whether oil companies that engage in torture are immune from a federal law holding the most atrocious human rights violators accountable to international norms. After last week’s oral argument, it was clear the case did not go well. The Court appeared poised to hold that corporations — all corporations — are immune from this law altogether.
Now, however, it could be much worse. Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued an order asking for additional briefing in the case and opening up the possibility that they could go much further than simply immunizing corporations from following this law:
This case is restored to the calendar for reargument. The parties are directed to file supplemental briefs addressing the following question: ?Whether and under what circumstances the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. §1350, allows courts to recognize a cause of action for violations of the law of nations occurring within the territory of a sovereign other than the United States.?
To translate this a bit, when the Supreme Court agrees to hear a case, they normally announce which “questions presented” they will decide. Originally, the primary question presented in this case was whether or not corporations can be held accountable for “violations of the law of nations such as torture, extrajudicial executions or other crimes against humanity” in U.S. court. Yesterday, however, the Court expanded this inquiry into whether anyone can be held accountable for major human rights violations abroad. The Court could very well hold that corporations are immune from accountability under the law holding human rights violators accountable — and so is everyone else.
To be fair, there is a narrow ground that would allow the justices to dispose of this case without causing as much harm to international human rights standards. The case involves a foreign corporation that committed its alleged actions on foreign soil, so it is not entirely certain that American courts can reach its actions anyway. Yet, even if the Court were to kick the case on this relatively narrow ground, it might only delay a future when American corporations that torture foreigners abroad would also be free to go about their business. Even as the Court is considering how to dispose of this current case, another, very similar case was recently decided by a lower court that also involves allegations of mass atrocities perpetrated by a corporation. Unlike the current case, however, this other case involves Exxon — and American corporation.
In other words, the Supreme Court could immunize foreign corporations from the law today, and then use Exxon’s case to immunize American corporations tomorrow.
Welcome to Clean Start, ThinkProgress Green?s morning round-up of the latest in climate and clean energy. Here is what we?re reading. What are you?
A winter snow storm added to the woes on Monday of tornado-struck Indiana and Kentucky, dropping several inches of snow on the ravaged region where dozens of people were killed, meteorologists said. [Reuters]
TransCanada says it has most of the state permits it needs to build the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, but no one knows which federal agency will oversee the project’s final environmental review. [Inside Climate News]
At least 77 people in southeastern Africa have been killed and more are still missing as Tropical Cyclone Irina sweeps through the region. [Al Jazeera]
China — which dominates the global trade in just about every commodity including iron ore (representing 47% of world trade), copper (38%), coal (47%), nickel (36%), lead (44%), zinc (41%) — delivered a downbeat outlook for 2012 growth, sending mining stocks reeling. [Mining.com]
Hampered by the lack of U.S. industrial policy, the push to make Elkhart, IN, the capital of American electric car manufacture has hit a roadbump. [NPR]
Since 2010, Chinese companies have invested more than $17 billion into oil and gas deals in the U.S. and Canada. [WSJ]
Newt Gingrich, whose well-developed sense of sarcasm always goes over well with his Republican supporters, was on a roll Monday evening as mocked Obama’s algae energy comments as “Cloud Cuckoo Land.” [LA Times]
Google is stepping up wind-power purchases to reduce emissions, even as it devotes most of its renewable energy investments to sun-related projects, a trade-off aimed at reining in costs as the company seeks higher returns. [Businessweek]
Republican lawmakers are moving to grab control of energy policy from state utility regulators in a political turf fight over the future of Arizona’s solar power industry. [AP]
Nine Republican attorneys general have launched lawsuits against the White House over regulating cross-state utility emissions and battling foreign species in the Great Lakes. [Detroit News]
According to some climate scientists, earlier-than-normal outbreaks of tornadoes, which typically peak in the spring, will become the norm as the planet warms. [Reuters]
Asked by a 700 Club viewer yesterday why God sent the tornadoes, Pat Robertson explained that “if enough people were praying He would?ve intervened, you could pray, Jesus stilled the storm, you can still storms.” [Newser]
When it comes to the controversial gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, the Republican Party itself appears fractured ? especially in the critical swing state of Ohio. [AP]
In the wake of Whitney Houston’s death, unfortunate references to her past crack use?even though it appears her death was related to prescription drug use?were rampant. Take, for example, John Kobylt, the co-host of Clear Channel’s The John and Ken Show, who delivered this gem, from the theoretical perspective of Houston’s friend: “It’s like, ‘ah Jesus, here comes the crack ho again. What’s she gonna do? Oh, look at that, she’s doing handstands next to the pool. Very good, crack ho. nice.’ After a while, everybody’s exhausted. And then you find out she’s dead.” The remarks landed them a suspension and an agreement that they, as well as channel staff, would attend sensitivity training.
There was no such punishment for Fox commentator Eric Bolling, who decided it was clever to respond to comments by Rep. Maxine Waters by declaring ?What is going on in California? How?s this? Congresswoman, you saw what happened to Whitney Houston. Step away from the crack pipe, step away from the Xanax, step away from the Lorazepam because it?s going to get you in trouble. How else do you explain those comments?? He was wise enough to roll back the comments immediately, but not to have refrained from making them in the first place.
It’s amazing that, given how racialized references to crack use are, and how ugly they can be when combined with implications about an accused female user’s sexual behavior, that people with any pretense to respectability, like Bolling, are still bringing it up. Kobylt’s remarks were ugly and insensitive, not only to Houston, but to the people in her life who cared abut her and who were affected by her addiction. Bolling’s are nonsensical?they have literally no point or relevance but to reach for a spurious stereotype about black women. It’s one thing to refer to crack cocaine use if someone is actually consuming crack cocaine. But it would be delightful if we could stop using it as a sloppy, ugly attempt to signal something meaningful.
A report released yesterday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows that the total balance of student loans in the U.S. is $870 billion, and 27 percent of student loan borrowers are at least 30 days behind on their payments. Average student debt now surpasses $25,000, and as Catherine Rampell noted in the New York Times with the following chart, “College tuition and fees today are 559 percent of their cost in 1985.” “In other words, they have nearly sextupled (while consumer prices have roughly doubled),” Rampell wrote:
While we've already had quite a few presidential contests, tonight, the nation's first non-presidential primaries kick off, beginning with the state of Ohio. The Buckeye State now has 16 congressional districts, down from 18 due to reapportionment, though only three races look like they'll have interesting primaries. (Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown is also up for re-election this year, though state Treasurer Josh Mandel has long had the Republican Senate nomination sewn up.) Because of redistricting, you'll want a copy of the state's new congressional map on hand:
(Continue reading below the fold)
Stop smirking about the giant anti-sex stick up Rick Santorum's ass. Stop snorting and hooting over all the advertisers and stations that have dropped Rush Limbaugh. Stop emailing the list of the hundreds of lies Mitt Romney has told today.
While you're high-fiving and puking in ecstasy at the repugs' self-destruction, they're playing twenty, thirty steps ahead of liberals, like they always have.
Setting it up for the next phase
Following up on my earlier post, here's a great new piece by Perlstein in Rolling Stone. This is just so right on:Here's the problem: Even if Obamaism works on its own terms - that is, if Sullivan is right that Obama's presidency is precisely on course - it can't stop Republicans from wrecking the country. Instead, it may end up abetting them.
To understand why, let's look at Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama has famously cited him as a role model for how transformative a president can be. Well, what did he transform, and how did he do it? Here's how: He planted an ideological flag. From the start, he relentlessly identified America's malaise with a villain, one that had a name, or two names - liberalism, the Democratic Party - and a face - that of James Earl Carter. Reagan's argument was, on its face, absurd. For all Carter's stumbles as president, the economic crisis he inherited had been incubated under two Republican presidents, Nixon and Ford (see this historical masterpiece for an account of Nixon's role in wrecking the economy), and via a war in Vietnam that Reagan had supported and celebrated. What's more, to arrest the economy's slide, Jimmy Carter did something rather heroic and self-sacrificing, well summarized here: He appointed Paul Volcker as Federal Reserve chairman with a mandate to squeeze the money supply, which induced the recession that helped defeat Carter - as Carter knew it might - but which also slayed the inflation dragon and, by 1983-84, long after Carter had lost to Reagan, saved the economy.
In office, Reagan, on the level of policy, endorsed Carter's economics by reappointing Volcker. But on the level of politics, in one of the greatest acts of broad-gauged mendacity in presidential history, he blamed Carter for the economic failure, tied that failure to liberal ideology and its supposed embrace of "big government" (Carter in fact took on big government), and gave conservatism credit for every success. Deregulation and supply-side tax-cuts brought us "morning in America," he said. That was bullshit, but it won him a reelection landslide against Walter Mondale, Carter's VP, whom he labeled "Vice President Malaise."
What's the lesson? It's not that you have to lie - Republicans had to do that to win, but Democrats don't. No, Democrats, in 2009, could simply have told the truth, and called it hell. The truth was this: For the first few years of this new century, America had ventured upon a natural experiment not attempted since the 1920s - governing the country with conservatives in control of all three branches of government. The result, of course, was - smoking ruins. Everybody knew it. A majority of Americans was receptive to "liberal solutions," and even conservatives knew it - which was why, after Obama delivered his February 24, 2009 speech defending the stimulus that, as I noted last week, got a 92 percent approval rating, and Bobby Jindal responded to it by excoriating the $140 million in stimulus spending "for something called 'volcano' monitoring," David Brooks said his "stale, government-is-the-problem, you can't trust the government" rhetoric was "a disaster for the Republican Party."
Barack Obama knew it too. He just wouldn't say it. He refused to criticize right-wing ideology. Or to make a full-throated case that Democrats offered an ideological alternative.
Instead, his favorite campaign line on the Republican record was a story about competence: The Republicans "drove the country into the ditch," and "now they want the keys back." But Republicans aren't bad drivers; they drive exactly where they want to go, pedal to the metal. Sure, they sometimes compromise on tactics - certainly Reagan did. But he, and they, never waver on strategic aims. They plant their flag in an uncompromising position, and wait for the world to come around - which, quite often, it eventually does. This is because in a media environment based on the ideology of "balance," in which anything one of the parties insists upon must be given equal weight to whatever the other party says back, the party that plants its ideological flag further from the center makes the center move. And that is how America changes. You set the stage for future changes by shifting the rhetoric of the present.
And it's the lack of doing that, and not just on Obama's part but virtually all national Democrats, that has brought us to the point at which the country no longer has any sense of what liberalism stands for. Sure they all like the individual policies, but they don't understand that they are liberal, based upon a coherent set of values and philosophical worldview. In fact, they often believe they are conservative because the Republicans pretty much tell them that anything they like, by definition, cannot be liberal.
I've been railing about this for years. Yes, the president has little real power when it comes to domestic issues and yes, he is hamstrung by his feckless congressional caucus and yes, the bully pulpit is bullshit, etc, etc. But I simply do not agree that it isn't the president (and the party leadership's) job to use their rhetoric and national forum to articulate a political vision and set the stage for future progress. It's not enough to be personally inspiring. In order to make advances and secure the ones you have, you have to appeal to people on the level of cultural, political, and ideological identity. The left and center left in America today is a mishmash of inchoate political confusion and discrete issue advocacy. We don't even agree on what to call ourselves.
What we are seeing happen right now as a result of this failure to stake an ideological flag is the mainstreaming of Paul Ryan's dystopian Randism and a foreign policy (in both policy and political terms)in which the only daylight between the parties is so slight that the greatest danger ahead is that the right wing will feel compelled to ever more dangerous adventurism simply in order to make a statement.(Unless they adopt Paulist isolationism, which I greatly doubt, they have nowhere to go but all the way down the rabbit hole.)
Read Perlstein's whole piece. It's a gem. And worth thinking about if you want to understand why some liberals are so disillusioned and depressed about the missed opportunity of the Obama mandate coupled with an economic crisis. The prospect of having to reinvent the wheel again next time is just exhausting. It gets harder and harder to do that the further both parties continuously move toward neo-liberal policies and authoritarianism.
Good news: starting today, my animations should be viewable on iPads and other mobile devices! Yay!
After the cut: a transcript of Mr. Limbaugh's remarks.
Pardon me if I sleep my way through Super Tuesday. The only thing that is super about today is the[...]
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**updated** ?It?s the worst kind of cowardice,? Imus said. ?Maybe he?s still jacked up on the Oxycontin, or whatever it is, but you can?t say stuff about somebody and not, 1) own up to it, and, 2) have guts enough to go sit down with her and say, ?Look,[...]
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