Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, has released a video ahead of Mother’s Day asking parents across America to lend their support to The Second Chance on Shoot First campaign, a recently launched coalition of elected officials, civil rights leaders, law enforcement professionals and concerned Americans who are working to raise awareness as well as “reform, repeal and prevent” the passage of reckless Shoot First and Stand Your Ground gun laws. Blotting her eyes and clutching a framed photograph of her slain son, Sybrina calls on parents to act:
“Just like me, 30,000 mothers lost their children this year to senseless gun violence. Nobody can bring out children back. But it would bring us comfort if we can help spare other mothers the pain that we will feel on Mother’s Day and everyday for the rest of our lives. I’m asking you to join Florida by calling upon the governor of your state to re-examine similar ‘stand your ground’ laws through out the nation to keep our families safe.”
Thanks to a provision of the Affordable Care Act, 16 million consumers and businesses are expected to receive about $1.3 billion in rebates from health insurance companies, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The medical loss ratio rule requires insurers to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of premiums on patient care; if not, then the companies owe rebates to their customers. As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius explains, “we want to know that most of what we are paying for is for health care, not advertising, executive bonuses or overhead. It?s pretty simple: we want to get a good value for our premium dollars.”
The Kaiser estimates show that rebates add up to $541 million in the large employer market, $377 million in the small business market, and $426 million for those buying insurance on their own. Roughly one-third of people nationally who bought individual insurance plans can expect a rebate, but the percent of consumers expecting rebates ranges from almost zero in some states to 86 percent in Oklahoma and 92 percent in Texas. “This study shows that asking insurance companies to put more of their premium dollar towards patient care rather than administration and profits is not only popular but also effective,” said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman.
Insurance brokers unsuccessfully tried to block this regulation, and Florida officials asked the federal government for less stringent requirements that would have likely reduced the rebate amounts in that state. But if this rule had gone into place in 2010, 15 million people would have seen $2 billion in rebates that year.
The same week that JP Morgan Chase announced it lost $2 billion on a risky trade, Democrats in both the House and Senate have introduced measures that would force the nation’s four biggest banks — JP Morgan among them — to shrink. The bill, proposed by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Reps. Brad Miller (D-NC) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), would cap the percentage of the nation’s deposits that any one bank can hold:
Under the proposals, a single bank could not hold more than 10 percent of the nation’s banking deposits, nor take on more than 10 percent of the banking system’s liabilities. Banks could take on no more than $1.3 trillion, or 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, in non-deposit liabilities. Non-banks could not take on more than three percent of GDP in liabilities, and could not grow larger than $436 billion.
Four existing banks ? JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wells Fargo ? are currently above the size cap, and would need to be shrunk down if the bill became law, according to Miller’s office.
?The gigantic size of megabanks, and the perception in the marketplace that they are too big for the government ever to permit to fail, gives them an unfair competitive advantage over smaller financial institutions that distorts the market and discourages competition.? said Miller. ?As our nation?s economy begins to recover, we must ensure that megabanks cannot take the same kind of risks that hurt so many of our nation?s families and small businesses,? Brown added. ?That?s why we need to place sensible size limits on our nation?s large financial institutions and ensure that if banks gamble, they have the resources to cover their losses.”
Butler County Republican Party co-chair Hardy Billington is running for reelection to the Poplar Bluff school board. Today he published a newspaper ad supporting the proposed “Don’t Say Gay” bill in which he calls homosexuality behavior “self-destructive,” a health risk comparable to smoking that people should be steered away from. He believes “homosexuals need our tough love”:
I'm really glad that someone identified the problem and is actually doing something about it, but I can't help but be angry that the problems of returning vets are so far down on the list of spending priorities?especially from the "support our troops" gang who are more interested in getting campaign contributions from military contractors than in cleaning up the human damage from their war-loving policies:
The problem of US military veterans falling into a life of crime after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has reached such levels that a law enforcer in Georgia has opened what is believed to be America?s first county jail devoted to veteran inmates.
John Darr, the sheriff of Muscogee County in Columbus, Georgia, has created the new facility in an attempt to break the cycle of recidivism by providing them with specialist services to help them deal with the problems they carry with them when they decamp.
?It?s really unique. What we?re bringing together is a lot of resources,? Darr told the local Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
Among the partnerships that are being set up is a link to Veterans Court, a community group that works with veterans in prison suffering from mental illness. The new dormitory, that will house 16 incarcerated veterans, will also provide those soon to be released with advice and support as they transition back into the community.
Up-to-date figures on the number of imprisoned veterans are hard to come by, but the problem is known to be extensive. A report from 2004 calculated there were about 140,000 veterans in US federal and state prisons but that might be a small fraction of the total as many more are held at county jail level.
As sheriff Darr told Fox News: ?If [veterans] are not dealing with issues they may have, where are they going to go? They?re going to go to local county jails.?
A report from the Drug Policy Alliance exposed high levels of substance abuse among veterans, accompanied by mental problems with as many as one in three suffering from PTSD and depression.
In addition to the mental health consequences of prolonged exposure to war zones, deactivated military personnel often struggle from other social problems that can lead them towards incarceration. Homelessness is a common state of the military veteran with the Veteran Affairs department estimating that 67,000 veterans are homeless every night.
The new veterans facility will be located in Muscogee County jail in Columbus, close to Fort Bening, a large military base. Inmates at the jail, that has been open for about a month, have told reporters they are pleased with the atmosphere inside.
Before you leap to conclusions about Mitt Romney's character, you really should listen to what his wife and a former high school classmate have to say about him in his defense:
So there you have it, folks. Mitt Romney was a crazy jokester who liked to traumatize and scare people unfortunate enough to be his lesser, but there's nothing wrong with that. And he's still the same guy today that he was back then. No harm, no foul.
With defenders like that, who needs critics?
When drone strikes kill people, rarely do news media bother to name those dead from the attack if they are not alleged by some official to be an al Qaeda leader. The others who are killed in addition to the al Qaeda leader that is believed to be dead are[...]
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You play an entire season, bust your butt on the field of play, give up fun activities to get in more practice?then at the biggest point in your career, you give up a chance at the championship just because of a player on the opposing team?
Essentially, that's what happened in Arizona:
A Phoenix school that was scheduled to play the 15-year-old Mesa girl and her male teammates forfeited the game rather than face a female player.More below the twisted Cheeto:
Our Lady of Sorrows bowed out of Thursday night?s game against Mesa Preparatory Academy in the Arizona Charter Athletic Association championship. The game had been scheduled at Phoenix College.
Paige [Sultzbach], who plays second base at Mesa Prep, had to sit out two previous games against Our Lady of Sorrows out of respect for its beliefs. But having her miss the championship was not an option for Mesa Prep.
Dick.With Mitt Romney under attack for being a textbook bully, the predictable right-wing response is to wail that childhood actions aren't relevant to a presidential campaign.
This is a choice argument coming from the crowd that spent the last weeks screaming about President Barack Obama eating dog as a child.
But aside from the hypocrisy, such childhood parables are relevant?they inform us, character-wise, of where a candidate has come and how far he has traveled.
What does Obama eating dog tell us about his character? It tells us he was an obedient boy who did what his stepfather told him to do, even if what he was asked to do was distasteful. Nothing more, nothing less. Of course, Republicans aren't spreading that story to impugn Obama's character, because they know there's no validity to that. They are spreading the story to cast Obama as an "other" who is un-American and just different than the rest of us. In other words, it's birtherism in another guise.
On the other hand, Romney's bullying has been so resonant precisely because it confirms what we already know about the Republican?that he is a callous, privileged, entitled asshole. He is such a jerk, that he even bullies the 1 percent. He is such a jerk, that his campaign-selected prep school friends trashed him as well, calling him "evil" and "like Lord of the Flies." It's not hard to see what happened: The governor's son bullied everyone into submission and he mistook that for friendship. He is the classic mean entitled rich kid from every 80s teen movie.
It is confirmation that Romney isn't just an insufferable dick today, but that he has always been that way. Had Romney responded to the bullying revelations with a heartfelt apology, admitted that his behavior was wrong, and called for an end to bullying in schools today, that would show the kind of maturation and growth in character that would render the issue into a positive for him. But of course, he didn't. He just doesn't think he ever did anything wrong.
So it's not so much his behavior as a child that's in question, it's his lack of maturation and growth as a human being.
It's relevant because we see the exact same Romney on the campaign trail?mocking the ponchos of NASCAR fans, laughing at the cookies proud
Ohioans Pennsylvanians had laid out for him at a picnic, talking about how much he didn't give a shit about the poor, torturing poor Seamus on family vacations, "joking" to unemployed people how he?rich asshole?was also "unemployed," laughing about Michigan auto workers losing their jobs, bragging about how much he loves to fire people, etc.
He's a dick. We suspected, sure, but now we know that he always was one. That he doesn't remember the incident is just more evidence that for him, being a bully was normal, average, status quo behavior for him. And no one remembers an average day.
You know how I felt about President Obama declaring himself in favor of same-sex marriage. I was gobsmacked. It?s politically risky. It?s symbolically powerful, in ways that Melinda Hennenberger noted sharply at the Washington Post. It pushed Senator Harry Reid, the next-highest-profile Democratic laggard on the issue, to support marriage equality, making full marriage rights pretty much the official platform of the entire Democratic Party. So I've been surprised by the number of people declaring that the announcement was too little, too late.
Maybe, yes, it would have been better for him to have made his declaration a few days before, when his opinion might have influenced the appalling vote in North Carolina, which on Tuesday joined all the rest of the former Confederate states?and, actually, most of the country?in writing its opposition to marriage equality into its constitution.
Okay, it's worse than that: The North Carolina law bans any recognition of same-sex partners or different-sex unmarried partners, no matter how insignificant. The amendment is pretty horrific?every bit as bad as Virginia's, where I try never to visit for precisely that reason. But does anyone think Obama?s announcement would have made a difference in that lopsided 61-39 percent vote? My heart aches for all the LGBT folks (and those who love them) in the state. But seriously? Would Obama?s point of view have brought it down to, what, 60-40? Is he that popular in North Carolina?
Here?s the other ground for carping: that Obama wrongly took a states' rights stand, saying that every state should be free to define marriage as it wishes. Adam Serwer and others think that Obama should have said that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, and should push for every state to immediately gender-neutralize its marriage rules?and if they don?t, the president should urge either Congress or the Supreme Court to force them to do so.
I disagree?strongly?on policy, tactical, and political grounds.
First, the policy. Marriage is a state issue. It always has been, under the Tenth Amendment. Each state writes its own laws of marriage and divorce?who can marry and divorce, and on what terms. Fourteen-year-olds, with parental permission? First cousins? Waiting period, either to tie or untie the knot? Divorcing because of irreconcilable differences or mental cruelty? Depends where you live, and in what decade. You may think that's appalling, and that your idea of appropriate marriage should be imposed on every American, but well, so does the conservative American Family Association. That's the system. And I like this system. We're not really one country, folks. The people in Jones Hollow, Kentucky, where my stepmother is from, have one marriage culture; the Satmars in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, have another; and none of those would approve of the marriage culture in Marin County, California. Okay, so those might be hyperlocal views of marriage, but if you want to carve the U.S. up into just two cultures instead of many microcultures, Red Families versus Blue Families can explain how different our marriage views are. We can scarcely agree, as a country, on a president. Getting South Carolina, Texas, Ohio, and Vermont to agree on how to define and run marriage? Ha. On same-sex marriage, most states just aren't there yet.
Here's the truth: If we had national marriage laws, I would not be married right now.
The U.S. has only recently been able to break through and try out same-sex marriage, which is leading people to realize, albeit slowly, that it's no threat to anyone. But that's only been possible because our federalist marriage system allows each state to make its own decision. And because we have a federalist system, LGBT advocacy groups are able to challenge the one national marriage law that the U.S. has passed: the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
In 1996, when it first looked as if Hawaii might try out same-sex marriages, the U.S. Congress passed DOMA. If it could have, Congress would have banned marriage equality outright, saying not only that the federal government wouldn't recognize marriages performed in the states, but make it impossible for states to do this at all (I believe that President Bill Clinton would have signed it, as he did DOMA). But it could not. Congress's lack of power to regulate marriage is precisely the ground on which the court challenges to DOMA are being brought. In these cases, LGBT groups aren't asking the Supreme Court to say that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry; they are saying that because the Constitution reserves this power to the states, the federal government doesn't have a choice in which marriages it recognizes and which it doesn't.
Let's be honest, folks: Same-sex marriage is a very recent new idea. We're not talking about interracial marriage, which was possible until states banned it as part of a comprehensive post-civil-war regime to impose slave-like status on blacks in every way but outright ownership. That post-Reconstruction moral panic?the attempt to enforce an ideology that black and white and yellow and brown were all separate species?was long, but historically temporary. Irish indentured servants and African slaves had been marrying earlier in American history. Allowing two women or two men to marry is a much more recent development. As I've written elsewhere, it really is a radical feminist idea, based on social developments between 1850 and 1950 that utterly transformed the West's marriage laws and philosophies. Before about 1750, marriage was a gendered division of labor?someone needed to butcher the meat while someone kept the books, cleaned the shop, and fed the apprentices. Together they made children, who were necessary labor, and had explicit jobs: herding the geese, or tending the fire, or being sent off at 14 to care for someone else's children and sweep their floors while saving up money to become a mistress someday.
Capitalism turned all that around. As each individual was freed to make her own living, independent of her spouse, Western marriage got redefined as a system of love and equal partnership. (How it works in individual marriages is beyond my scope for today; I'm talking about law and social philosophy.) Same-sex couples can and should belong in that system. (For more, see my book What Is Marriage For?)
But getting people there requires time. Some parts of the country have been more willing than others to extend that gender-neutral, equal marriage philosophy to marriage's entrance requirements. And what all the DOMA lawsuits are saying to the federal courts is this: let the states decide. The federal government has no power to write marriage's rules, or to pick and choose which marriages it likes and which it doesn't. The federal government's only power is to apply its own decisions?on such things as pensions, health insurance, immigration, Social Security?to whatever marriages the states make.
Obama has supported the repeal of DOMA unequivocally. First, as Chris Geidner has explained in great technical detail, the Obama Justice Department has refused to defend DOMA, and in fact has been filing briefs on the side of same-sex marriage. Second, the Administration supports the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the law outright. (Here's what I want to go ask the advocates: If those lawsuits win, won't it mean that a North Carolinian female couple could get married in New York and still be married when they come home, at least to the United States of America? Won't they have hospital visitation, and be able to inherit from each other free of federal taxes, and so forth? Won't ERISA law consider them married? But I haven't done that reporting yet; I'll let you know what I find.)
More tactically, it would be terrible for Obama to talk about imposing same-sex marriage on states. The backlash would be horrifying?not just against same-sex marriage but against the imperiousness of the overeducated coastal elites. I get a little impatient with liberal straight folks who think that Doing The Right Thing is enough. I know I'm overcautious--I come from a different time--but there are still a lot of people who think it's disgusting to be queer, or even if they don't, just aren't there yet on opening marriage's doors. Those minds are more likely to open one at a time than if they feel their being dictated to by overeducated know-it-alls with no common sense.
A lot has been made of the fact that when Loving v. Virginia was issued in 1967, most Americans were oppsoed to interracial marriage. But their laws weren't. The California Supreme Court had ruled the same way 19 years earlier, in Perez v. Sharp, 1948. Most states had already dismantled their interracial marriage bans, leaving only 17 on the books in 1967. Loving was earth-shatteringly important--and it made it possible for my aunt and uncle to travel in the south, if they wanted to--but it was a mop-up operation.
There are still 30 states with constitutional amendments restricting marriage to male and female. Let's undo some of those before asking for a federal fiat imposing a foreign marriage ideology on the regular folk. In other terms, let the president's soft declaration of belief work to open people's minds, combined with the daily efforts of LGBT folks talking to our friends, colleagues, and families about why we want to marry. Let change come from the bottom up.
Law and culture change in tandem. The president's statement helps change the culture. (Check out ThinkProgress's assembly of newspapers' front pages, day after his announcement, and tell me his statement is too little to have an effect.) The administration's actions are helping to change the law. If he gets re-elected, I believe we will see DOMA repealed before 2016, even with a Republican House.