As polls in favor of marriage equality trend upward, politicians are pushed into an awkward corner. The Prospect's Paul Waldman explained earlier this morning how the incentives just aren't there yet for Democrats to go out on a limb and support same-sex marriage; favoring civil unions probably captures enough of the vote. But at the same time, Republicans have to struggle with the divide between their base, which wants constitutional amendments barring any legal recognition for LGBT couples, and the wider public, whose views soften each passing month. As I noted earlier this week, it's already created a divide between Romney and some of his high-dollar donors.
Now it looks like an issue state-level Republicans will have to grapple with as well. North Carolinians will vote next month on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The Charlotte Observer reports that one major candidate has done his best to duck the issue:
He?d rather talk about something else ? say, the economy or education.
But press Pat McCrory about gay marriage, and the presumptive Republican nominee for governor will say this much ? and little more: On May 8, he plans to vote for the proposed N.C. constitutional amendment reaffirming the state?s ban on same-sex marriage.
That puts him in line with evangelical Christians and other parts of the GOP?s conservative base, who back the so-called marriage amendment by large margins.
But it sets him apart from some leaders in Charlotte?s business community and from many moderate voters ? the very groups that formed McCrory?s base during his many years as mayor of Charlotte.
The article goes on to note several prominent local business Republicans who have been vocal opponents of the measure, while McCrory largely stays silent except for affirming his support for the amendment when questioned by reporters.
So far, the divide between the conservative base and business Republicans hasn't translated into a new policy direction for the party, but the cracks are beginning to show. Republican candidates still have to nominally align themselves with anti-LBGT measures, but as time goes on, pressure from their major funders should eventually push more and more Republicans away from stumping against LGBT civil rights.
The way former U.S. Attorney Paul Charlton sees it, federal prosecutors already have enough evidence to charge Sheriff Joe Arpaio with a crime. So, he said in an interview with TPM this week, it's time for the Justice Department to act.
"If this investigation began in 2008," Charlton said, "then it's time for these guys to make a decision."
The well-respected former prosecutor is one of four prominent Arizonans who are now calling on the Justice Department to charge the Republican sheriff or else clear his name and put an end to the suspicion that has been hanging over his office for years. They wrote a letter last week to Attorney General Eric Holder, saying the nation's top lawman should decide immediately what to do.
"The only way to clear the air and resolve matters beyond a reasonable doubt is to meet before a judge and jury in a court of law," the letter said. "Or, if your investigation has not found sufficient evidence of wrong doing to bring criminal charges, you should say so now and end the investigation. Only definitive action by your Office one way or the other will end our long ordeal."
Arpaio, whose office did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday, has reportedly been under criminal investigation by the Justice Department since 2008. But the investigation has dragged on without anyone being charged.
Joining Charlton in writing the letter were three of Arizona's best-known politicians, two of whom are fellow ex-prosecutors: former Attorney General Terry Goddard (D), former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon (D) and former Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley (R).
The four have been longtime critics of Arpaio, but they said the right thing for the Justice Department to do would be to clear the sheriff publicly if investigators have been unable to come up with enough evidence to charge him.
They also said they don't see how that would be possible. In their letter, dated last Friday and first reported by the Arizona Republic this week, the foursome pointed to a damning ruling by an Arizona Supreme Court disciplinary panel.
The ruling, which came down last week, said there was enough evidence to show "beyond a reasonable doubt" that Arpaio and three of his closest allies participated in a federal crime in December 2009.
The alleged crime didn't involve jail conditions, immigration enforcement or any of the things that made Arpaio notorious. Instead, it stemmed from a feud with other local government officials in Maricopa County.
Arpaio and his allies have been accused of using their law enforcement powers to target their political enemies, often investigating, arresting or charging them with crimes. The investigations rarely showed evidence of actual wrongdoing, and the disciplinary panel said the law enforcement actions were simply used as tools to humiliate political enemies.
In one example highlighted by the panel, Arpaio and his allies allegedly plotted to charge a judge with bogus crimes so that he would have to withdraw from a case in which he was expected to rule against them. The panel said that alone would be a crime and the evidence available would be more than enough to secure convictions of the people involved.
As a result, the disciplinary panel disbarred a pair of prosecutors that helped Arpaio in the crusade.
In the interview with TPM, Charlton called last week's ruling "extraordinary" and said it was what pushed the foursome to speak up.
"In my mind, that places the ball directly in the Department of Justice's court," he said.
Now in private practice in Phoenix, Charlton represented one of the targets of Arpaio's investigations, Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley. He also has plenty of experience with politically motivated scandals.
Appointed as the U.S. Attorney for Arizona under President George W. Bush, Charlton was one of eight federal prosecutors who were abruptly fired for what later turned out to be politically motivated reasons. The fallout from the firings eventually led to the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
House Republicans eager for election year budget battle with the President; Senate Republicans not so much. [...]
Read The Full Article:
Well, it’s not exactly like Anthony Weiner, but the settlement conjures up similar images.
The Democratic Party is holding their convention in a right-to-work state that is anti-union, where a sex scandal has now broken wide. From the New Observer:
A former staffer accused the state Democratic Party?s executive director of showing him a picture of male genitals, caressing his leg and discussing his sexual exploits, according to new documents obtained by The News & Observer.
… His allegations match those detailed in a complaint filed Jan. 31 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission obtained by The N&O. The EEOC complaint stated that Ortega tracked the alleged harassment in a notebook.
…The lascivious details magnified the spectacle embarrassing the state Democratic Party in an election year and came just days before President Barack Obama is expected to visit North Carolina.
The letter became public minutes after party Chairman David Parker refused to resign under pressure from party leaders, including Gov. Bev Perdue, who asked him to step aside ?for the good of the party.? In a statement, Parker said he had the ?strong support? of the party?s executive council.
What lascivious details?
Here are a few:
In the letter, Ortega says Parmley:
? Frequently gave him unwanted shoulder rubs despite verbal objections.
? Pointed to his crotch area and asked how his crotch looked in his pants.
? On July 28, detailed his past sexual activities.
? On July 29, showed Ortega a picture of a penis.
Having the convention in North Carolina was never a good idea. That the Democratic Chairman has now been caught with his homo-erotic self exposed is close to karmic.
Pres. Obama is reportedly scheduled to be in North Carolina next Tuesday.
If you can get through this whole thing, you've got a stronger stomach than I do.
Just like when one turns on the light in a tenement apartment and the cockroaches go scurrying, ALEC is desperately looking for dark corners to once again hide their presence. The work that various progressive groups have pulled together to call attention to the wholly undemocratic and corporatist work getting draconian conservative legislation in all the states has made to date eleven corporate members drop them (the latest: Blue Cross). Facing horrible press and dwindling membership fees, ALEC announced that they were dropping the task forces focusing on the Stand Your Ground laws and Voter ID/Fraud. ALEC had been working so successfully in the shadows undermining democracy and citizen representation that this kind of scrutiny had to be uncomfortable.
And so--to return to my cockroach metaphor-- ALEC wants to make that tenement so unpalatable to enter that they need never worry about those pesky lights again. How does one do that? By attacking the "liberal media" responsible for shining the light on ALEC's activities. And who better to do that than someone whose association with Andrew Breitbart shows they have little interest in fairness, truth or accuracy, but do love to destroy things liberals hold near and dear.
Shortly after issuing a press release announcing that it was disbanding its "Public Safety and Elections Task Force" after 30 years, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held a training for the right-wing blogosphere.
Director of External Relations Caitlyn Korb spoke yesterday at a Heritage Foundation "Bloggers Briefing," begging conservative bloggers for help while prepping "a very aggressive campaign to really spread the word about what we actually do." Korb appears to be a new ALEC employee who recently worked for the Cato Institute. Both ALEC and Cato have received funding from Koch family foundations. The Heritage Foundation is an ALEC member.
The "Bloggers Briefing," which was started by Heritage's Rob Bluey and "a dozen conservative online entrepreneurs" six years ago, was broadcast online on "Breitbart TV," a project of the late Andrew Breitbart.[..]
Korb outlined ALEC's PR counter-offensive. She told bloggers that ALEC will launch a website called "I Stand with ALEC" in the next few days. The phrase is familiar to Wisconsinites, as it tracks the Americans for Prosperity (AFP) campaign on behalf of the embattled governor, whose slogan is "Stand with Walker." AFP is also an ALEC member.
Korb pleaded for help on social media: "We're getting absolutely killed in social media venues -- Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest (I didn't even know Pinterest was a forum for a lot of political opposition, but now it is) -- so any and all new media support you guys can provide would be so helpful, not just to us but to average people who don't know much about this fight but are seeing us get really heavily attacked with very little opposition."
ALEC has a Facebook page where it posts its news releases and what little favorable press it receives. There is also a new Pinterest board called "Anti-ALEC Comments" that documents many of the negative comments ALEC staffers delete from its Facebook page. The Facebook pages of corporate members are being swarmed with comments about ALEC.
ALEC is looking specifically at Democratic strategist Karen Finney (who appears daily on MSNBC as a contributer), journalist Lisa Graves and organizer Van Jones. They are advising these wingnut bloggers to go after them in the comments of articles, on social media and throughout the blogosphere. But it's only a matter of time before they come after liberal blogs and organizers as well.
"I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard."Romney 2012:
"I believe people understand that I'm firmly pro-life," he said in a debate that same month.Keep in mind that this isn't just a speech. It's the commencement address. Meaning, you get a speaker that you know clicks with your values. And Mitt Romney does not click with any of the values held by the Jerry Falwell crowd.
According to the latest edition of the AFL-CIO’s Executive Pay Watch report, the gap between CEO pay and worker pay expanded last year. In 2011, CEOs in the Fortune 500 made an average of $12 million, about 380 times what the average worker makes:
The ratio of CEO-to-worker pay between CEOs of the S&P 500 Index companies and U.S. workers widened to 380 times in 2011 from 343 times in 2010. Back in 1980, the average large company CEO only received 42 times the average worker’s pay.
This explosion in pay certainly isn’t justified by corporate performance. In fact, “while the average CEO pay increased 13.9 percent at S&P 500 Index companies in 2011, the S&P 500 Index ended the year at the same level as it started.” Just this week, shareholders at Citigroup voted to reject CEO Vikram Pandit’s pay package (in a non-binding vote), saying that he was collecting millions while the company floundered.
Meanwhile, workers saw their pay increase by just 2.8 percent last year. Already, most of the gains of the nascent economic recovery have been going to the richest Americans (just as they have for recent economic expansions). In 2010, the richest 1 percent captured 93 percent of the nation’s income gains.
The AFL-CIO is calling for regulators to implement a rule included in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law that requires companies to disclose their CEO-to-worker pay ratio. ?Astronomical CEO pay is based on the false idea that the success of a corporation is due to one CEO genius. In reality, all employees create value, and CEO pay levels should be more in line with the rest of their company?s employee pay structure. CEOs should be paid as a member of a team, not as a superstar,? said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
Yesterday, the House Ways & Means Committee — following the instruction included in the House Budget — passed legislation that would require families who qualify for subsidies in the health care exchanges to pay higher taxes if their incomes change mid-year. The change could dissuade people from purchasing insurance, disproportionately impact women (who are more likely to experience income fluctuations), and — as a new analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains — could increase costs for the entire population.
Under the Affordable Care Act, families between 100 and 400 percent of federal poverty line (FPL) qualify for government assistance when purchasing health coverage through the state-based exchanges. The government will pay insurance companies a refundable amount based on an estimate of the family’s annual income (the assistance is available on a sliding scale in which higher-income earners receive smaller subsidies). Should a family?s income change during the year (were a single mother marries in the middle of the year, for instance), it is required to pay the government back a specific capped amount come tax season. Congress has increased the fee twice since the law was enacted (the original legislation set the cap at around $400) and now the Republicans are hoping to boost the amount to the full overpayment.
The Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office estimate that the higher tax bill would discourage 350,000 people from signing up for the subsidies in the first place. Many would be dissuaded from enrolling in insurance because “the amounts they could be required to repay to the IRS if they received subsidies would be more than five times higher than the penalty they would owe if they remained uninsured in 2014.” Judith Solomon and Robert Greenstein explain what this means:
If the caps on repayment are eliminated, the amounts that families would be required to repay in 2014 would, in many cases, be well over five times the penalty they would face in 2014 under the ACA?s individual mandate if they failed to obtain coverage. [...]
Our analysis indicates that 38 percent of the estimated $43.9 billion in savings credited to this provision comes from the reduction in the number of people who would enroll in coverage in the exchanges.
As noted, because people who decided to forgo coverage would disproportionately be healthy individuals, the pool of people enrolling with the exchanges would be sicker on average, which would push up everyone?s premiums for insurance. The higher premiums, in turn, would lead additional healthy people to forgo coverage. The result would be ?adverse selection? that could weaken the viability of the exchanges. For some families, the result also would be huge marriage penalties, as the example cited at the beginning of this analysis shows. Under the House provision, the family in that example would owe the IRS almost $5,000 as a result of getting married during the year.
Solomon and Greenstein note that this repayment system is fairly unique — after all provisions that penalize people who marry or obtain jobs don’t make for smart policy. Other programs, they write, are based on eligibility on current income so that “if a household?s income rises during the year, it ceases to receive assistance or receives a reduced benefit, but it is not made to pay back the aid it received during its period of need.” And the Affordable Care Act itself takes great pains to ensure that families don’t receive more government dollars than they’re entitled to. Under rules issued by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, applicants are required “to validate and update the information on their prior tax return; if their income has increased in the interim, the updated information must be used to determine their subsidy amount.”
But all this matters little to a Republican party eager to enact the Ryan budget and unravel President Obama’s signature health care law.
A new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that college-age Millennials (age 18-24) continue to support marriage equality at consistently high rates. About 6-in-10 (59 percent) support allowing same-sex couples to legally marry, but factors like education, religion, and sex can influence their views. In particular, students attending a private college (80 percent) or who do not affiliate with a religion (81 percent) were extremely likely to favor the freedom to marry. Women (65 percent), Catholics (66 percent), white mainline Protestants (62 percent), non-Christians (65 percent), and students attending a public college (65 percent) or community college (60 percent) also showed particularly strong support. These results mirror similar Millenial reactions documented last August and a growing generational divide on LGBT issues.
By Alli Thresher
Yesterday The Oatmeal ran a comic about the differences between online gameplay experiences between the genders. In it, Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman, depicts his own experience playing a few rounds of Left 4 Dead online. In the panel below, he showcases the ease with which a clueless girl gamer accidentally trashes her teammates and receives pleasantries and accolades for her faults:
Naturally the comic sparked outrage across the interwebs. The piece drew ire from gamers across the board, largely for its totally flawed portrayal of the realities of online gaming. At first, Inman seemed to miss the point, responding with a pseudo apology post in which he wrote, ?a terrible female gamer gets away with more than a terrible male gamer.?
Cuppycake, Lead editor of The Borderhouse Blog, summed up, perfectly, why the above statements are not only erroneous, but also evidence of the privileged perspectives that make gaming often unwelcome for women: ?You know what actually sucks about being a woman who games? Being harassed because of my gender…When I make a mistake in games, it?s because I?m a woman trying to play games. When you make a mistake, you just suck at the game and made a mistake.?
After receiving, and obviously digesting, further messages and tweets about the comic and the follow up post, Inman made a huge step in rectifying the situation by not only making a large donation to The Women Against Abuse Foundation, but also noting that he really and truly effed up: ?I?m a guy and I barely talk into my mic, so I?ll concede that my view of things is probably very skewed.?
I commend Inman for skewing away from the typical mansplaining of ?stop being so sensitive? that often accompanies the response to pieces like his comic. That he recognized his position as privileged and went even further to show that he came around to understanding what the problem with the post was is HUGE. The entire situation, however, brings to light, again, the true realities of online harrassment in the video games community.
As part of his apology post, Inman asks readers, ?Outside of steam, it sounds like it?s still pretty horrible for women to play games. Is this true?? Yes, Mr. Inman, it is.
Need proof? Check out http://fatuglyorslutty.com/ or http://www.notinthekitchenanymore.com/ And guess what? The above include posts from all over the sphere of gaming – Steam, XBLA, and beyond. While I?m very aware that trashtalking is the nature of friendly competition, for women gamers (or gay or lesbian gamers, or gay gamers, or well basically anyone who doesn?t immediately present as a white straight male), our mere presence online opens us up to language that goes well beyond trashtalking. I?ve gotten cursed out playing Uno. And it?s not just ?idiotic 13 year olds? doing the harassing. Research proves that the average gamer is 37 years old and that eighty-two percent of gamers are 18 years of age or older. Speaking from personal experience, the worst harassment I ever received as a gamer or community manager came from a man in his early 30s who had a job, a long time girlfriend, and most definitely did not live in his basement.
Truth be told, I?m thankful that the whole debacle occurred for a number of reasons. First, and foremost, it?s HUGE that a very public, internet celebrity, like the Oatmeal creator, can have his eyes opened to the experiences and realities of other gamers. Second, the reaction, to Inman?s original post, highlights again, that a sizeable portion of the gamer community is very aware of, and not cool with, the unfriendly nature of online gameplay. Finally, it provides an opportunity for all gamers to proactively look at how they address harassment when they witness it.
I think all gamers are invested in their play experiences being fun, productive, and straight up awesome. Moreover I think we all want the spheres we play in and the communities we participate in to be welcome places. So what do we do about all of this? Simple, report, call people out, and refuse to accept that violent sexist language is part of our culture or experience. If you?re a guy playing online and you hear someone trash talking, call them out. Feel free to say, ?hey, that?s not cool.? Better yet, feel free to report and block them. Refuse to play with them. If you?re a moderator for an online community, enforce guidelines regarding hate speech. Educate members of your community about how their language can alienate other players. Don?t be afraid to use the banhammer.
And finally, if you?re a woman playing online, don?t stay silent on your end of the headset. I know this is tougher?who likes opening themselves up for abuse? But it?s high time that we stop hiding. Women make up over 40% of the gaming population – we?re a huge part of this community and we should not let ourselves be made invisible. So turn on your voice chat, ladies, and let the folks on the other end know that you?re there, you?re playing, and you?re not going away.