Recently, President Obama raised the ire of conservatives when he claimed the Supreme Court would be practicing judicial activism if they struck down the health care law, despite a long record of Republican presidents railing against so-called activist judges without a similar backlash. If a new survey is any indication, the President is not the only one worried about a politicized Court.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll released today found that most Americans expect the Supreme Court to decide the health care law’s constitutionality based on politics, not law. Fully half of Americans expect the Court will rule based on “partisan political views,” while 40 percent expect a ruling based on the legal merits of the law. As the survey notes, this view isn’t just held by supporters of the law:
The public?s perception of the court is closely tied to partisan and ideological leanings. Almost twice as many conservative Republicans think the court will decide on the basis of the law rather than politics, 58 to 33 percent. Liberal Democrats are more skeptical, saying by an equally wide margin that the court will put politics first.
Just over half of political independents think the court will base its ruling on partisan predispositions. This includes similar numbers of independents who support and oppose the health law.
The Supreme Court has made several decisions over the past few years which completely ignored decades of precedent. This probably explains why earlier surveys have found that fewer Americans view the Court positively than ever before. It is also worth nothing that this is not the first survey which showed Americans were skeptical of how the Court would rule on the health care law.
The Affordable Care Act is supported by nearly 200 years of precedent, which should make this an easy case. During oral arguments, however, the justices seemed more concerned with whether they agreed with the law then whether it is constitutional. One justice in particular parroted several Republican talking points during the arguments.
Little Brown’s released a basic plot summary for J.K. Rowling’s first book aimed at adults rather than younger readers, The General Vacancy, which sounds like a combination of Hot Fuzz and Harry Potter’s summers home with the Dursleys:
When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?
This strikes me as a terrific match for Rowling’s talents. The bits at the Dursleys are a frame device for the real action, which happens at Hogwarts, but they’re brilliant none the less. I’ve always appreciated how Rowling’s been able to communicate that the Dursleys are profoundly fearful people, whether they’re terrified of being seen as less than ordinary by their neighbors or subordinate to the whims of the marvelously monstrous Aunt Marge. In the early novels, Petunia and Vernon are held hostage by their own son, whose tantrums over gifts and diets and school uniforms have them almost entirely cowed. The entire family’s treatment of Harry is hideous, and an illustration of the moral rot that can lie behind manicured facade. Even suburban dream houses have basements.
Beyond the walls of Number 4 Privet Drive, she imbues the rest of Little Whinging and the world around it with a certain amount of unease, too. The zoo Harry and Dudley visit is a bit depressing until Harry’s accidental acts of magic transform it. The England the Dursleys flee through is drab, the island where they finally end up is the setting for a horror movie before Hagrid’s arrival transforms it into something else entirely. Even before the Dementors show up, the playground where Harry waits for Dudley and his friends, spoiling for a fight later in the series, has a sour, outgrown air to it. I think Rowling’ll do just fine, even if she doesn’t bring magic to Pagford.
And she’s always been very good at the pettiness of politics. “The Other Minister,” in which the recently-deposed Wizarding Prime Minister Cornelius Fudge pays a visit to Number Ten Downing Street is an excellent stand-alone piece of writing about a politician confronted by something entirely beyond his pay grade. Arthur Weasley is a charmingly dedicated bureaucrat, and Percy Weasley’s careerism and return to his principles and his family is one of the great small arcs of the Harry Potter novels. The grandioseness and failings of the other powerful politicians in the Ministry is both farce and ultimately tragedy. The General Vacancy may not be magical, but that doesn’t mean that the Harry Potter series wasn’t the perfect preparation for it.
No one is arguing that raising children isn’t work. Democratic strategist and CAP Action board member Hilary Rosen is a single mother of twins who had to go through the expensive and challenging process of adoption with her then partner Elizabeth Birch. Now, she’s trying to stick up for other mothers who don’t have the luxury of millionaire husbands to help fund their child-rearing duties, and the backlash is getting ugly. Catholic League president Bill Donohue attacked her family on Twitter this morning:
@CatholicLeague: Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own.
Somehow, Rosen’s family is less valid, less worthy of respect because she adopted her children. This insults not just lesbian couples, but all non-birth mothers. In fact, it seems like few even recognize that Rosen is a mother at all, perhaps an inherent cultural consequence of her choice (or lack of choice) to not be a stay-at-home mom. Consider this Twitter quip from Alice Stewart, who until this week was Rick Santorum’s National Press Secretary:
@alicetweet: Being a mother is the most valuable work a woman can do, my heart goes out to @hilaryr children if she doesn’t believe that
Such comments play into archaic stereotypes that de-emphasize the important work men can do as fathers and that women can do in the professional world. The most valuable work a woman can do is whatever work she chooses to do. To otherwise qualify women’s roles in society is to prove Rosen’s point. Ann Romney is not qualified to speak on behalf of women who have had to earn the living they need to raise their children, and discounting those women’s life choices as “less valuable” is the true controversy.
Imagine an America in which Catholic nuns patrol the streets armed with rulers and issue citations like meddlesome meter maids to women whose hemlines rise provocatively more than two inches above the knee. Preposterous? I would have thought so, too, until the controversy over women's access to birth control rose from the dead, zombie-like, after being safely interred for more than half a century.
Today, conservatives seem more eager than they've been in a very long time to stick their noses into parts of our private lives that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable.
Conservatives insist all this talk about a "War on Women" is just a ruse, a liberal invention to distract attention away from more problematic issues for Democrats, such as joblessness and gas prices. Real women, say the white-gloved ladies of Concerned Women for America, don't care about contraception, or Planned Parenthood, or trans-vaginal probes. Only "feminists" do. In fact, this whole debate isn't about women at all. It's about "religious liberty."
Much of the controversy about the "War on Women" and the insertion of religion into our politics is mostly semantics given that the wall of separation between church and state in America still remains high, despite recent attempts by conservatives to scale it.
But there's no need for metaphysical disquisitions over the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin when talking about a "War on Women" since we already know what one looks like and that the usual aggressors almost always turn out to be religious conservatives.
In Saudi Arabia, according to Human Rights Watch, women continue to be treated as "legal minors" by their male "guardians" who still retain the power to determine whether women may work, study, marry, travel, and even undergo medical procedures. Recently, a doctor in her forties lost a court appeal to have her father removed as her guardian after he refused to give her hand in marriage and then confiscated her income. She now lives in a women's shelter. In another case, two women were forced by their brothers to marry five men each for money and against their wills. Another woman was sentenced to 300 lashes and 18 months in prison for "appearing in court without a male guardian."
Things are a little better in Iran. According to USA Today, women are still not equal under Iran's constitution, adopted in 1979 after the overthrow of the Shah, but Persian women do enjoy greater liberties than those in neighboring Arab nations. Unlike most Arab women, those in Iran can drive by themselves, get a university education and hold public office. In Tehran, there is even a professional fire company composed entirely of women -- the only female firefighters in the entire Middle East. But according to USA Today, Iranian law still treats women as just half of a man on matters like inheritances, compensation for injury and death and giving testimony in court.
Women are also finding their liberties under increasing assault in ultra-Orthodox Israel, writes Daily Beast columnist Peter Beinart. Ultra-Orthodox Judaism was born out of terror and hatred of the Enlightenment and is based on a rejection of all secular values, including the emancipation of women, says Beinart. "And so, like their counterparts in the Muslim and Christian worlds, ultra-Orthodox Jews have responded with increasingly aggressive efforts to subjugate women in public life," he says.
Thankfully, says Beinart, liberal Israelis are taking to the streets to fight the "moral depravity" of this "ultra-Orthodox misogyny." But the ability of ultra-Orthodox Jews to demand segregated buses, sidewalks, and public events, he says, is rooted in their control of key ministries in Netanyahu's Likud government.
You say it cannot happen here? How could anyone oppose equality for women? That's what liberals were asking themselves a generation ago when the drive to add an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution stalled a few states short of ratification.
Say what you will about Phyllis Schlafly, she was a genius of messaging and organization who understood the vulnerabilities of America's political system to a small but determined minority -- even one that represented a worldview most would regard as backward if not appalling.
Many would also agree with Chris Mooney, author of a recent book on conservatism, that Schlafly represented a politics that was "authoritarian, traditionalist and hierarchical" to its core. But Schlafly also spoke for those who saw feminism and the ERA "as an attack on marriage, the family, the homemaker, the role of motherhood, the whole concept of different roles for men and women" -- and who also saw the "traditional" family unit as "the single greatest achievement in the history of women's rights."
The War on Women that Republicans are desperately trying to dismiss as a figment of liberal imaginations was certainly real enough for Jimmy Carter when, in 2009, he severed a 60-year relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention to protest that conservative religious organization's treatment of women as second class citizens.
"This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. It is widespread," said Carter. "At their most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities."
Religious conservatives today say they are the ones being treated like second class citizens. They insist that all they want to do is participate in American politics like everyone else and they don't see why their religious commitments ought to disqualify them.
Conservatives also compare themselves to the religious movements led by such spiritual leaders as Dr. Martin Luther King in the fight for civil rights, and before that abolition. And they accuse liberals of hypocritical double standards for insisting on a wall of separation between church and state - but only when its conservatives organizing themselves politically to push for their religious values in public.
This is dangerous nonsense. Liberals have never believed people must check their most deeply held beliefs at the door or be treated like moral and ethical eunuchs whenever they take part in politics.
The problem is that conservatives want more. They aren't interested in merely participating in politics. They seek to change the nature of American politics altogether by making the private, public.
The civil rights and abolitionist movements that conservatives are so eager to be identified with addressed issues that were already political in nature, meaning they touched on the relationships between human beings and how we treat one another. By taking part in those movements for human dignity and freedom, the liberal churches were merely adding their own religiously-informed voices to the larger agitation already underway for change and justice.
What religious conservatives seek, on the other hand, is to radicalize politics by making what we do in the privacy of our own homes into a fit topic for public debate, public discussion and even public law-making.
The Catholic Church, for instance, has well-established positions on a whole array of legitimate political issues - on war and peace, on the welfare state, on capitalism and labor relations, on the environment, on the death penalty and criminal justice.
But these are not the issues that interest the Catholic bishops most when they insert themselves into the public square. Instead, the Catholic hierarchy is motivated by the same "morals" issues that the religious imagination has always been obsessed with, whose regulation and enforcement is what separates a modern society that gives individuals broad liberties and freedoms from a traditionalist one in which those same individuals are forced to conform to ancient and rigid norms of behavior. Often on penalty of death.
This most recent spasm of political activism by the Catholic bishops and other church leaders wouldn't be the first time that religious authoritarians have asked for nothing more than to make use of the rights guaranteed by a democracy in order to advance a cause that undermines it. For what distinguishes democracy from all other forms of politics is that thin line which separates authority from autonomy.
The classic expression of this democratic principle was provided by John Stuart Mill who, in his famous essay On Liberty, wrote: "The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant."
Mill's distinction between the public and the private is not one that a traditional society or that society's traditional religious leaders would recognize at all.
"This was not a fight that we picked," said New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, posing as the victim in the bishop's dispute with President Obama over birth control. But as Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan smartly observes, to a religious mind like Dolan's "any space for non-believers is an assault on belief itself."
When conservatives like Cardinal Dolan or Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention see individual autonomy, choice, and freedom in the modern world they are appalled by it, says Sullivan, for it represents to them all the values they detest: "secularism, feminism -- homosexuality."
We may be a world apart from the traditionalist societies of the Middle East, but Sullivan says there is a difference "only in degree" between Islamism's view of the role of women and that of Focus on the Family's James Dobson or End Times fabulist Tim LaHaye.
"Very, very few women control any religious institutions on the religious right," says Sullivan. "Patriarchy rules there as it rules in Pakistan."
If, in the view of religious conservatives, the law cannot be neutral between competing moral ideals. And if the law must reflect God's will regardless of the views of religious minorities. Then faith of any kind is always and everywhere preferable to no faith at all or sincere doubt, says Sullivan. And so, to conservatives the distinction between religion and politics must finally disappear.
Sullivan says that the logical next step for a Catholic hierarchy and for the religious right that seeks to sever conservatism from its roots in the post-Enlightenment world is to weld themselves "permanently to an older, pre-modern vision of mankind and religion."
And if that means an attack on America itself and on America's democratic ideals, then so be it, says Sullivan. "These are core beliefs we are talking about, and some of them run deeper than patriotism."
An assault on women's rights and freedoms, as well as the attempt to control women's sex lives, has always been an distinctive manifestation of these authoritarian and hierarchical movements as they grab for public power to police private behavior, "purifying" the culture by re-imposing upon populations hostile to their views the conservative movement's own "individual mandates."
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I hope the LGBT community and the broad progressive community appreciate the full irony of this decision. Obama officially thinks it is appropriate to use his executive power to buy a drone from a government contractor and use that drone to execute you[...]
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There are a host of organizations that track congressional elections and offer lists of the most competitive Senate races. You can consult Real Clear Politics? list, which is backed up by polling data, or peer into Larry Sabato?s Crystal Ball for a political scientists? perspective. But perhaps the best indicator for which elections are most competitive comes the parties themselves.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) committed itself to an early ad-buy this week, penciling in $25 million to spend on ads in six different Senate races. The blitz won?t start until after Labor Day, so the group still has time to cancel or reconfigure how that money is spent, but it provides an early glimpse at the seats at play. With the current breakdown in the Senate at a 53?47 advantage for Democrats, Republicans will need to swing four seats their way, or three seats if they win the presidency and the vice president?s tie-breaking vote. Here are the six races where the NRSC is planning to commit its early funds, per Roll Call:
- $5 million in Wisconsin for the open-seat race to succeed retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D).
- $5 million in Missouri to defeat first-term Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), who faces an extremely tough re-election race.
- $3.5 million in Montana to defeat Sen. Jon Tester (D), another first-term Senator with a hard re-election ahead of him.
- $5.5 million in Virginia for the open-seat race, where former Sen. George Allen (R) and former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) are locked in a highly competitive contest.
- $3 million in Nevada, where appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R) is seeking a full term against the presumptive Democratic nominee Rep. Shelley Berkley.
- $3 million for the open-seat race in New Mexico, where former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) and Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) are on track to face each other in November.
It?s noteworthy that a large chunk of that money is going to defend the Republican seat in Nevada. At the beginning of the cycle, all the evidence pointed toward disappointing results for Democrats based on the number of seats they need to defend?23 Democrat-held spots compared with just 10 for the GOP. But a number of the Republican seats have trended against the party. In addition to Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine could easily swing to the Democrats. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren is running strong against incumbent Scott Brown, easily outpacing him in fundraising and running about even in polls. A Rasmussen survey this week found Warren ahead of Brown by one point. With Olympia Snowe retiring in Maine, the early expectation is that independent Angus King will take the seat, and though King hasn?t committed to caucusing with either party, his support for Obama and his critiques of Republican policy indicate that he might side with Democrats should he win this fall.
Still, it will be an uphill battle for Democrats. The NRSC left North Dakota and Nebraska off the list in their prospective buy. Both states trend Republican in national elections and with the two elder Democrats retiring in both instances, they could be easy gets for Republicans.
?Everybody is on my list,? said Romney in answer to a voter who asked whether he would consider former presidential candidate Rick Santorum as his running mate. ?Everybody is on my list. I?m not taking anybody off the list, alright??Well for those of us dreaming the impossible dream?a Romney-Santorum ticket?that's a sliver of hope. It's not exactly an affirmative statement that Rick Santorum is in contention, but it's better than last month. Alas, within moments, he changed his tune:
?I actually don?t, I don?t have a list, yet,? said Romney. ?So I can?t say someone is on or off my list.?Argh, what a crushing blow. I was so hoping for Santorum! If only Romney could change his answer once again. Oh wait. He did?
?But I can tell you that the people who I had the privilege of running against would surely be among those I would consider,? said Romney. [...] ?So of course they?d be on that list ? and he, among others,? Romney said of Santorum.I think I got it now: Everybody, including Santorum, is on the list?the good list. Which means he's off the bad "too liberal" list. Except there is no list. But if there were a list, he'd be on the list. Among others. But not everyone. Got it.
We now know who our opponent is.
But what we're really fighting against is what our opponent has pledged to do if elected.
He would shower billionaires with more huge tax breaks, oppose setting a timeline to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, starve investments in clean energy research, and make it harder for students to afford to go to college. He'd outlaw a woman's right to choose and completely cut funding for Planned Parenthood.
We can't afford an endless war in Afghanistan, a return to policies that hurt the middle class, and a social agenda from the 1950s.
The stakes and the differences are profound. The outcome of this election will determine the course of this country for decades to come.
I need you by my side.
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The Obama administration's program to assist needy homeowners is foundering badly, a new inspector general's report shows. [...]
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Looks like Best Buy may have its own Bobby Petrino problem. [...]
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