Eleanor Holmes Norton. Wonderful voice, no vote.The District of Columbia has a great congressional representative in Eleanor Holmes Norton. But she only gets to represent D.C. part way. She's elected but she has no vote. That fact was the excuse that Arizona Rep. Trent Franks used to keep her from testifying in May on a bill?HR 3803?that would ban abortions in D.C. after 20 weeks of gestation. No exceptions are allowed for rape, incest or the health of the woman. The bill includes penalties for abortion providers of up to two years in prison and a fine.
Having been given its warm-up in subcommittee hearings, the bill goes before the full House Judiciary Committee Wednesday for its mark-up. And once again, Norton will be excluded from speaking a word about it.
Not that what Norton has to say on the subject will sway committee members already committed to telling D.C. residents what they are allowed to do in what should be a matter between a woman and her physician. Franks and like-minded politicians are working diligently?an adverb not often appropriate to describe them?to pass such laws in every state they can. They don't really care what the 600,000 residents of D.C. think.
Since she won't be allowed to speak at the mark-up, Norton has issued a statement that will be included in the written record. An excerpt:
Some are debating whether House Republicans have been engaging in a ?war on women? in our country. What is not debatable is the fixation of the Republican majority on depriving the women of the District of the reproductive rights that all other Americans enjoy. This bill, however, is another abuse of power and denial of democratic rights. The committee, acting at the insistence of special interest organizations, is using District women to abet a national campaign to defy Roe v. Wade, the law of the land. Instead of introducing a nationwide post-20-week abortion ban, the campaign has taken the bill to conservative states and to Congress, but only for District women. [...]From Delegate Norton: Arrow. Zing. Bullseye.
District women are the chosen vehicle, but the targets of the national campaign are women of the nation. If this bill is passed in the House, it will be used to show a federal imprimatur, however bogus or limited, for the purpose of encouraging other jurisdictions to defy Roe v. Wade. Thus, H.R. 3803 goes beyond the tactics these same forces used to bring the federal government (and with it, the District government) to within an hour of shutting down in April 2011, which was avoided only after they succeeded in re-imposing an undemocratic rider on a spending bill to prohibit the District from spending its own local funds on abortions for low-income women. [...]
H.R. 3803 is unprincipled twice over. As to the District, it is the first bill ever introduced in Congress that would deny constitutional rights to the citizens of only one jurisdiction in our country. It is also the first bill ever introduced in Congress that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Its application to District women is a cover for its underlying purpose: to undermine Roe v. Wade in other jurisdictions in the United States. [...]
Today, the committee invites the outrage of women far beyond the borders of the District, where the bill seeks its ultimate targets.
The screeching over the Affordable Care Act as the biggest middle-class tax hike ever from Republicans has quieted down some this week, as the Republican House realizes they've got yet another vacation coming up and a whole heckuva lot of legislating they haven't bothered to deal with yet still out there waiting for them. But it will be the focus of Republican outrage all summer long, and we're going to see a redux of August '10 with astroturfed town meetings featuring frothing teabaggers screaming about gubmint keeping its paws off their Medicare.
So, in preparation for that, here's yet one more analysis, this one from USA Today, showing that very few in the middle class will end up having to pay more in taxes as a result of the law. This, they say, is what might happen.
?About 7 million people could pay more because the law makes it more difficult to deduct medical expenses. People with lower incomes are less likely to itemize deductions.All in all, the paper says, less than 10 percent of the nation's 140 million taxpayers could see a tax increase. That same 10 percent (unless they refuse to purchase insurance at all) will also get the benefits of not having copays for any preventive care, not being denied coverage for a serious illness that arises because of some specious "pre-existing condition," and the security of knowing that they'll always be able to be insured. For that small sliver of the population, that's a pretty decent tradeoff.
?About 4 million workers could pay more because of a new $2,500 limit on flexible spending accounts, which can be used to shield medical expenses from taxation.
?The tax that rendered the law constitutional, to be assessed on those who fail to buy mandated health insurance, could hit about 4 million people across all income brackets.
When you see some of the crazy "issues" being raised in this presidential election instead of leadership on climate change, doesn't it make you want to scream? Not only are we going to have massive crop failures as a result of this ongoing drought, we aren't even able to ship the crops we have when shipping channels like the formerly-mighty Mississippi are drying up:
Companies operating along the Mississippi River are seeing a drastic cut in business as severe drought lowers water levels and makes shipping increasingly difficult.The drought, which now covers more than 1,000 counties across the US, has dropped water levels 50 feet below last year?s levels in some places. Last winter?s lack of snow, the absence of any major tropical storms from the Gulf of Mexico, sweltering temperatures, and the lack of rain this spring and summer are to blame for the shallow water.
The Mississippi is a major trade conduit through the central U.S. Barges, which are often cheaper to operate than trains or trucks, carry goods such as grain, corn, soybeans, steel, rubber, coffee, fertilizer, coal, and petroleum products in and out of the interior of the country.
As the water levels fall, barges have run aground near Vicksburg, Mississippi, where the water is already less than 5 feet deep, and shipping companies have been forced to curtail their business. The Wall Street Journal reports:
?It?s causing headaches all up and down the river system right now,? said Martin Hettel, senior manager of bulk sales for AEP River Operations, a St. Louis-based barge company.Mark Fletcher, owner of Ceres Barge Line of East St. Louis, Ill., said about 70% of his 220 barges aren?t being used now. First, the drought cut crops, reducing demand for shipping. Now, low water levels are making it more costly to ship.
?It?s not good if you are in the barge business right now,? he said. ?In the last 60 days, you?ve watched a whole lot of money go out the window.?
Some river ports have been forced to close temporarily or shut down parts of their operations because of the low water levels. At the port of Rosedale in the Mississippi Delta, port director Robert Maxwell Jr. said water levels are about 50 feet below what they were last year, when flooding shut down the port. If the water falls any lower, there was a ?high likelihood? he would have to close, he said. One of the port?s public loading docks is inoperable, with equipment normally in the water now hanging the air. The Army Corps of Engineers is supposed to come this week to dredge, where heavy equipment is used to dig out sediment from waterways to make them passable for shipping.
Our guest blogger is Kimberly Barton, intern for LGBT Progress.
A coalition of organizations released a report today outlining the disparities LGBT parents and their children face due to states? refusal to recognize their legal ties. Outdated, biased, and discriminatory laws, policies, and practices are preventing same-sex parents from securing the same legal recognition to their children that would otherwise be afforded to them if they were different-sex parents. This report ? Securing Legal Ties for Children Living in LGBT Families ? outlines the many ways states can remove barriers to legal parental recognition for same-sex couples, extended families, and unmarried couples who are raising a child or seek to foster or adopt a child.
Current laws and policies need to be evaluated in order to make the legislative changes that would provide stability and security to over two million children that are being raised in LGBT families today. The report points out several areas where legislative action is needed to promote security and stability for children of LGBT families. Donor insemination laws as well as foster care laws are of particular interest:
When lesbian couples in committed relationships choose to become parents, often times they conceive through donor insemination. Although only one mother gives birth to the child, both mothers act as parents and should be recognized as such by the law. Unfortunately, in 35 states, this is not the case ? the non-biological mother of a child conceived through donor insemination is viewed as a legal stranger and has no legal rights of parenthood.
States can respond to this issue with solutions that rightly recognize the legal status of same-sex parents and their children. For couples in legally recognized same-sex partnerships, parental presumption laws can allow non-biological mothers to become the presumed parent to the child their partner conceives through donor insemination. For couples not in a legally recognized partnership, consent-to-inseminate provisions can act as a legal recognition of parenthood. They require the non-biological parent to sign that they legally consent to the insemination of their partner and wish to be seen as a parent to their child in the eyes of law.
However, even if states do allow for these two means of obtaining legal parenthood for the non-biological mother of a child conceived through donor insemination, these protections do not always carry from state-to-state. Repealing the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act would offer more security and stability to children of LGBT families by enabling married LGBT couples to have full legal ties to their children no matter the state they live in.
LGBT parents currently foster an estimated 14,000 foster children ? 3 percent of all foster children ? even though only six states have laws on the books that specifically support LGBT foster parents. Forty-two states and the District of Columbia are silent on laws and policies regarding LGBT foster parents. When states are silent, discrimination and stigma sometimes prevent LGBT parents from becoming foster parents to the over 408,000 children in foster care (as of 2010). For example, in some states where there is no official law or policy against LGBT parents fostering children, child welfare agencies are allowed to reject LGBT foster parents based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Unless discrimination against LGBT parents is specially prohibited in foster care laws, this kind of discrimination can keep foster children from finding loving, supportive homes.
Children?s best interest is at stake when the law does not recognize their legal parents or allow them to become part of a family. The action steps outlined in the report are key to ensuring our laws and policies support the best interests of children across America.
My colleague Zack Ford flagged an interview with New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, in which he says he’d be fine with a gay teammate, and correctly noted that comments like this are critically important in setting a tone and creating an environment in which someday, an active professional athlete will come out. But for me, the most interesting part of the interview was the context reporter Cyd Zeigler Jr. provided for it.
Gronkowski initially refused on comment because “Gronk said he had no problem with me, he was just afraid of saying something wrong. I understood where he was coming from. While he?s been the darling of the media at times since first appearing in the NFL in 2010, he?s also been the target of some nasty attacks by the media and fans. It seems every time he opens his mouth or appears in the media, he gets roasted for it.” But he changed his mind, came back and answered Zeigler’s question about how he’d handle a gay teammate, and did just fine. We’ve reached a tipping point where neutrality on gay rights is becoming a riskier proposition than affirmation, the kind of thing it’s worth composing yourself to comment on even if you’ve got a history of press trouble. It’s important to be on the record on this, and to preserve your position on the right side of history.
Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona on Monday in an attempt to overturn HB 2800, which restricts funding for its health clinics. Under the bill, individuals who are eligible for Medicaid may not seek health services at Planned Parenthood because the organization also performs abortions — a tactic to defund Planned Parenthood clinics. Conservatives have used this attack in 13 states across the country this past year.
Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) signed HB 2800 into law this May, and it will go into effect on August 2 unless Planned Parenthood’s efforts are successful. Under the law, nearly 3,000 Medicaid patients who currently receive birth control and other preventive care at Planned Parenthood clinics will no longer be eligible for services there. Of course, low-income women who are eligible for Medicaid are often the population that most benefits from access to affordable preventative care at health clinics like Planned Parenthood.
In a press release from earlier today, Planned Parenthood Arizona’s President and CEO Bryan Howard expressed concern about Arizona’s push to deny low-income women access to his organization’s health services:
HOWARD: It is wrong for the state to tell Arizonans who they can and cannot see for their health care. The men and women of this state have the right to see the health care provider they deem is best for them. [...] It is unfortunate that our state and its lawmakers continue to put ideology and politics before the welfare of Arizonans. Women and men who come to Planned Parenthood aren?t making a political statement, they are coming to the get the health care they need from the provider they choose.
Following the Arizona legislature’s most recent anti-choice crusade, this is the second recent lawsuit to be filed against the state over radical anti-abortion legislation. Last week, three doctors — represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, and the Center for Reproductive Rights ? sued Arizona over HB 2036, which has been widely considered the most extreme abortion ban in the nation because it criminalizes almost all abortions after just 20 weeks. Brewer signed HB 2036 into law this April.
Arizona is one of 26 states that the Guttmacher Institute considers “hostile to abortion rights.” Arizona’s two bills are in addition to the 37 other new laws restricting women’s access to abortion services that have been introduced in the first half of this year alone.
Today, the anti-gay Liberty Counsel used the decision by Boy Scouts of America to maintain its ban on gay scouts and leaders to endorse two of the most archaic and harmful myths about LGBT people. Praising the move on Facebook this afternoon, the Counsel wrote, “Congratulations! Boy Scouts affirm natural family! They will continue to protect young boys from homosexual pressures and predators.” The paraphilia of pedophilia has no connection to the sexual orientation of homosexuality, and as in the Catholic Church, believing otherwise has not prevented sexual abuse from taking place within the scouting ranks. It is the ignorance, invisibility, and stigma that the Liberty Counsel promotes from which young boys truly deserve protection.
A welfare reform waiver proposed by the Obama administration that would allow states more flexibility in employment programs tied to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has come under fire from conservative institutions and congressional Republicans since it was introduced last week. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) has led the charge against the policy, and in a fiery floor speech Monday, he accused the Obama’s administration of wanting to “undo welfare reform” with the “stroke of a pen”:
HATCH: In essence, by the stroke of a pen, and against the clear intent of bipartisan majorities of the American people, Congress and the law itself, President Obama’s administration has attempted to undo welfare reform, one of the signature bipartisan policy achievements of the last 20 years. [...] This landmark legislation, the product of a Republican-controlled Congress, ended an entitlement to welfare and replaced it with a block grant to the states. The block grant known as the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF, provided states with unprecedented control over welfare programs in exchange for meeting federal work standards.
But the changes sought by the administration seem similar to the program Hatch described in his rant. The administration’s waivers would give even more of the “unprecedented control” Hatch cites to state governments, a type of reform usually supported by Republicans. And though it waives certain federal requirements, the states will still have to meet federal standards (and establish their own benchmarks) under the waiver program.
Further, the reforms hardly “gut” welfare reform or its welfare-to-work requirement. Instead, they aim to improve a program that is woefully inadequate when compared to the federally-controlled welfare program that preceded it.
Though Hatch has a problem with the administration’s plan, other Republicans in his state actually began the push for waivers. Utah, under Republican control, began calling for the waivers in 2011 (along with Nevada, also under Republican control). “Utah is especially interested in the development of waiver authority in the TANF grant,? Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) wrote in a letter to HHS after the decision was announced.
Remember the Tom Tomorrow cartoon from around 2006 in which Bush and Cheney were actually hippie radicals who plotted back in the '60s to destroy conservatism once and for all by getting elected as republicans and then implementing policies so outrageous that the American people would rise up in disgust and reject conservatism forever?
Only no matter what they tried - blowing a trillion-dollar surplus, letting al Qaeda attack the towers, invading Iraq to steal its oil, torturing innocent detainees, refusing to rescue New Orleans - Americans just kept cheering.
Sometimes the Romney campaign sounds just that ludicrous.
During an appearance on Fox News on Tuesday morning, Mitt Romney surrogate and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu (R) argued that President Obama did not have the requisite business experience to create jobs because he was "smoking something" in Hawaii:
Or as Austin Ligon, co-founder of CarMax, wrote to the Washington Monthly in the May/June issue:
An even bigger accomplishment in the auto restructuring, and one on which the administration is even more unwilling to focus, for obvious reasons, was the action the president took once he realized (correctly) that that both the management and boards of GM and Chrysler were incompetent and unworthy of investment. Obama, through car czar Steve Rattner, did what a truly great CEO or private-equity guy would do ... he fired them, and brought in new guys from outside Detroit. That was a huge risk, undertaken at lightning speed, which all of the traditionalists in the industry thought was crazy.
But in one fell swoop, he fixed fifty years of Detroit incompetence at the highest levels.
To put it another way, Obama has done two private-equity deals in his life. They were bigger than the sum total of everything Mitt Romney has ever done, and they worked better and faster ... and all the benefit accrued to the nation at large, no skim-off required.
That level of direct involvement and decision-making, like his direct decision to "go" on Osama bin Laden, shows that Obama actually has great courage and decisiveness when the chips are down and a big decision must be made.
What's clear from a review of the public record during his management of the private-equity firm Bain Capital from 1985 to 1999 is that Romney was fabulously successful in generating high returns for its investors. He did so, in large part, through heavy use of tax-deductible debt, usually to finance outsized dividends for the firm's partners and investors. When some of the investments went bad, workers and creditors felt most of the pain. Romney privatized the gains and socialized the losses.
What's less clear is how his skills are relevant to the job of overseeing the U.S. economy, strengthening competitiveness and looking out for the welfare of the general public, especially the middle class.
Bloomberg calls Romney's business "casino capitalism;" I call it stealing from the American taxpayers. Romney shouldn't be running for president; he should be in prison.
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